Sounding like a candidate gearing up for another presidential run, Gov. Rick Perry on Friday blasted the Obama administration in some of the harshest terms he has used since his failed White House bid in 2011.
Already the longest-serving governor in Texas history, Perry has not said if he plans to seek a fourth full term in office next year. But he also hasn't ruled out running for president again in 2016.
A hint of his intentions, though, may have come in Perry's fiery tone and focus on non-Texas issues while addressing the National Federation of the Grand Order of Pachyderm Clubs, a Republican grassroots group active in 14 states.
"We have an administration today that is taking alarming steps to infringe upon our rights in the name of consolidating their power," Perry told about 200 activists who gathered in San Antonio for the organization's national convention.
It was revealed this week that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone records of hundreds of millions of U.S. phone customers. That includes users of Verizon's land and mobile phones, but also those from other companies.
"Who knew, when you were watching the Verizon ad and the guy said, `Can you hear me now,' that was really just a mic check for the Obama administration," joked Perry, who drew a standing ovation.
He called the federal government's secret surveillance into America's phone records a "fundamental misuse of the massive power of the federal government," and added, "These acts are something I would expect to see out of China but not out of the United States."
Word of the phone surveillance came as the Obama administration already faces questions over the federal tax agency's improper targeting of conservative groups and the seizure of journalists' phone records in an investigation into who leaked information to the media.
"They have spied on us, they have intercepted reporters' communications, they have unleashed the IRS to target conservative groups and not just conservative groups ... Faith-based groups," Perry said.
The governor also referenced the September 2012 attacks against a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
"This irritates me to a great deal," he said, "no one has the authority at the White House or the State Department to pick up the phone to send elite forces to save and rescue our ambassador in Benghazi. But someone high enough up in this administration is authorizing the tapping of over 100 million American phones."
He went on to blast the Obama White House for allowing unchecked federal expansion, saying of the U.S. government, "It was never meant for there to be this powerful, centralized government that says, `Here is how you are going look, act, perform in every avenue;' whether it's health care or whether its transportation, or whether it's education or whether its on the social issues."
The speech came after Perry visited the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in San Antonio to sign into state law a measure allowing people with service animals to take them anywhere -- including restaurants and food stores. He even got a little help from service dog Bootz, a 3-year-old rat terrier whose leg was carefully dipped into an ink pad so he could affix a paw print to the legislation.
"It was fun," Perry said of the joint signing, "but it was powerful and appropriate."
The law includes a publicity campaign to educate store employees and business owners that people with post-traumatic stress disorder and other disabilities that aren't always visually obvious still should not be discriminated against when they take their service dogs to public places. It also mandates fines for any who do discriminate.
Bootz belongs to U.S. Army veteran Adan Gallegos, who served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and suffers from PTSD. The dog jumps to remind Gallegos it's time to take his medication, while also gently urging him to leave public situations that are stressful.
Gallegos also sued a San Antonio mattress store last year after he says the owner kicked him out for having a service dog.
"It feels amazing," he said of the new law. "All I wanted was to get positive attention for service animals."