President Obama Talks Gaddafi and GOP on ‘Tonight Show’

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Susan Walsh / AP

President Barack Obama talks in between segments of an interview at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011

A late-night talk show might not seem the best forum for a President to discuss a Libyan leader’s demise. But in this day and age, you get your message out however you can.

For the second time as President (and fourth time in total), Barack Obama chatted with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show Tuesday. Domestic difficulties such as touting his jobs bill and dealing with the Republican party were on the agenda, but Obama’s remarks on Muammar Gaddafi got the biggest reaction online.

On the day that Gaddafi was given a secret burial, Obama was more than open with his thoughts. “Well, this is somebody who, for 40 years, has terrorized his country and supported terrorism,” Obama began. “And he 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. And, obviously, you never like to see anybody come to the kind of end that he did, but I think it obviously sends a strong message around the world to dictators that people long to be free, and they need to respect the human rights and the universal aspirations of people.”

(PHOTOS: Libya Celebrates Liberation)

But what did he make of the extremely graphic images that quickly made their way around the world of Gaddafi being discovered and dragged away? “Obviously that’s not something that I think we should relish. There was a reason after [Osama] bin Laden was killed, for example, we didn’t release the photograph. I think that there’s a certain decorum with which you treat the dead even if it’s someone who has done terrible things.”

The audience applauded Obama’s comment about U.S. strategy in Libya in that, “Not a single U.S. troop was on the ground. Not a single U.S. troop was killed or injured.” There was further acclaim for his praise of the Navy SEALs that did for Osama bin Laden.

But there were moments of brevity. Obama poked fun at his wife Michelle by noting that she plans to give trick-or-treaters bags of fresh fruit and raisins as her fight against childhood obesity clearly knows no bounds. He’s even told her, “You know, the White House is going to get egged if this keeps up,” before continuing, “You need to throw some candy in there, some Reese’s Pieces or something.”

And when Leno asked him whether he’s been watching the GOP debates, Obama was ready with a top-notch zinger. “I’m going to wait until everybody is voted off the island before (that),” he joked about the battle to find a nominee, before concluding, “Once they narrow it down to one or two, I’ll start paying attention.”

With material like that, Leno might just be hoping that Obama wins next year’s election. Because if Obama loses his job, he could probably do Leno’s.

PHOTOS: Barack Obama’s College Years

Glen Levy is an Executive Producer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @glenjl. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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