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President Obama Sublime to Substantive on Jay Leno (watch!)

President Obama makes a point on Jay Leno last night.

President Obama makes a point on Jay Leno last night.

President Obama sat down with Jay Leno last night for a wide-ranging interview that may have been one of the best that Leno has ever conducted during his 30 or so years on the show. The president tackled questions on Russia, the economy, health care, NSA leaker Edward Snowdon, gay rights and the Trayvon Martin case.

And, at the end of the interview, he had a small present for Leno, who is an avid automobile buff.

He presented the talk show host with a detailed replica of the presidential limousine about three inches in length. “Cool! Oh, cool,” Leno replied. “I assume the real car will be in my garage after?”

That was the least substantive moment of the night. After warming up the president with a question or two about his birthday, Leno peppered Oama with some pretty insightful questions.

Taking one from the latest headlines, Leno asked about the latest terrorist threat and lockdown of U.S. embassies in trouble spots around the world.

“We had already done a lot to bolster embassy security around the world, but especially in the Middle East and North Africa, where the threats tend to be highest. And whenever we see a threat stream that we think is specific enough that we can take some specific precautions within a certain time-frame, then we do so,” he said.

But Obama deflected Jay’s question about a possible connection with the Benghazi disaster, discussing instead the Boston bombing case. Jay failed to follow up and press the president on the issue.

In the wake of Snowdon’s leaking of classified information showing an extensive government capability to spy on U.S. citizens, Obama assured that “there is no spying on Americans.”

“We don’t have a domestic spying program. What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat,” he explained.

“If we can make sure that there’s confidence on the part of the American people that there’s oversight, then I think we can make sure that we’re properly balancing our liberty and our security.”

Obama took one of his most unequivocal stands on gay rights. “I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” he said.

He struck a similar theme in his comments on the death of Travyon Martin, who was shot and killed as he walked home in Florida, after he was profiled by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.

Obama emphasized that people “should be treated fairly and the system should work for everyone.” But he did not address the gun issue or state laws that allow people to carry concealed weapons and shoot to kill under “stand-your-ground” laws.

His only real partisan comments came when discussing the economy. He scored Republicans for their obstructionism in Congress on such issues as infrastructure improvements and repair of the nation’s roads and bridges.

“The question is do we have the political will to do it,” he said. “And my argument to Congress has been, this is just like your house. You can put off fixing the roof.”

In a similar vein, he praised his 2008 presidential rival for stepping across the partisan divide in Congress on important issues. “John McCain and I have a number of philosophical differences, but he is a person of integrity. He is willing to say things regardless of the politics,” he said.

Check out the interview for all the details of the presidents conversation on Hillary Clinton,, health care and other issues, and follow TheImproper on Twitter.


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