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Obama talks politics, Libya with Leno

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:27 PM EDT, Tue October 25, 2011
President Barack Obama appears on
President Barack Obama appears on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on Tuesday night.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama appears on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" Tuesday evening
  • Obama says he won't pay attention to the GOP primary until it's down to 1 or 2 candidates
  • Obama tells Leno that Gadhafi's death sends "a strong message" to other dictators

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- President Barack Obama chats about politics and foreign policy during a taped appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" Tuesday, telling the late-night talk show host he's not spending too much time yet focusing on next year's potential GOP rivals.

Asked by Leno if he's been watching the recent spate of Republican presidential debates, Obama says that he's "going to wait until everybody's voted off the island."

"Once they narrow it down to one or two (candidates), I'll start paying attention," the president jokes.

Obama criticizes Washington's harsh political climate, telling Leno that "the things that folks across the country are most fed up with, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, independent, is putting party ahead of country or putting the next election ahead of the next generation."

Leno also brings up the situation in Libya, asking the president for his reaction to the death of longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

"This is somebody who for 40 years has terrorized his country and supported terrorism," Obama says. Gadhafi "had an opportunity during the Arab Spring to finally let loose of his grip on power and to peacefully transition into democracy. We gave him ample opportunity, and he wouldn't do it."

Obama stresses that he didn't enjoy seeing Gadhafi's violent death, but notes that it sends "a strong message around the word to dictators" that "people long to be free," and that "universal rights" and aspirations should be respected.

Obama's full interview with Leno is scheduled to air on NBC Tuesday night.

The president is on a three-day trip to Nevada, California and Colorado.

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