POSTED: Friday, November 8, 2013 - 3:27am
UPDATED: Saturday, November 9, 2013 - 11:34am
(CNN) -- — Returning to Iowa for the first time since he campaigned in the state's Republican presidential caucuses two years ago, Texas Gov. Rick Perry delivered a blistering anti-Washington, anti-President Barack Obama address as he spoke Thursday night at a Polk County GOP dinner.
Normally known for his folksy, light-hearted demeanor, Perry instead remained largely serious as he sacked the Obama administration on a range of issues from health care law to foreign policy.
The potential 2016 presidential candidate also hinted he's eager to play a big role in getting the country back on track.
"Those of you with this ... renewed sense of purpose in this country can lead America back to greatness again. I stand ready to work with you to create that," he said at the end of his remarks.
The 12-minute speech was riddled with what he described as damaging steps the president has taken and warning about the next few years of Obama's presidency.
"It's amazing to me that the Obama administration is capable of barricading a war memorial despite government being shut down, but they can't operate a website when it gets up and running," he said about the botched HealthCare.gov rollout.
The governor, who's not running for re-election next year, spent a significant portion of his time on foreign policy. He blasted the president for "alienating" Israel, "emboldening" Iran and "muddling" through the Arab Spring.
"Long before our President presided over our downgrading of our credit, he was downgrading our standing in the world," Perry said.
Perry said Obama showed a "demonstration of weakness" following the use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria by the Bashar al-Assad regime. The president sought congressional approval before striking the war-torn country, but Syria ultimately agreed to a diplomatic solution before Congress held a vote.
"We gotta be the only country in the world that sends out a save-the-date attack card," he said, to applause and some laughs. "It is not in our interests to give advance warning to an enemy. As an old Air Force pilot, I will tell you, we want the first sign of coming to be craters in their soil."
"It's not too late for America to lead in the world. We can do it again," he added.
On the domestic front, Perry lamented the country's financial entanglement and argued the future will best be determined by the states, not the federal government.
"We're losing the country we love to a government that is too big, too arrogant, too controlling of our everyday lives," he said. "We've got to turn away from Washington to find answers. We need to look to red states that are outperforming blue states."
He pointed to "conservative governors" such as Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Rick Scott of Florida and Terry Branstad of Iowa.
Notably absent from the list was fellow Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who won re-election in the blue state of New Jersey this week, as well as other potential 2016 contenders, including Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
As he often did in his 2012 campaign, Perry highlighted the Texas economy and its tax incentives for businesses, saying the federal government should pay attention and let the "sleeping giant" of American industries break past a mountain of regulations.
Although his speech was underlined with a serious tone, Perry let a few jokes slip through.
"I got some really fond memories of campaigning here, competing in the Iowa caucuses. The only thing I regret is taking that really big bite out of that veggie corn dog at the state fair," he said. "Probably going to see that one again sometime, you think?"
Perry added he always feels "comfortable" when he visits Iowa (where he placed a disappointing fifth in the 2012 caucuses), saying he's the son of a farmer and the state's values remind him of his hometown in Texas.
"Our leaders have forgotten how to govern - believe me, I know a few things about forgetting," he joked, poking fun at himself from his infamous "oops" moment when he forgot the third of three federal agencies he would eliminate while speaking at a presidential debate.
Perry marks the latest of a stream of potential 2016 contenders who have visited Iowa.
Fellow Texan, Sen. Ted Cruz, carried out a two-day trip in Iowa last month - his third trip to the state this year.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Jindal have also made stops in the Hawkeye State in recent months.