Texas Rep. Ron Paul suggested Wednesday that the government could just as easily target the media or academics the way it did US-born al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki in a military strike last week.
Paul, the libertarian-minded congressman who's criticized the government's assassination of al-Awlaki in a missile strike last week in Yemen, argued that the strike opens a slippery slope toward broader targeting of citizens by the government.
"Can you imagine being put on a list because you're a threat? What's going to happen when they come to the media?" Paul asked during an appearance at the National Press Club. "The media becomes a threat or a professor becomes a threat. Some day that could well happen. This is the way it works. It's incrementalism."
Paul has staked out turf in the GOP primary as a critic of ongoing US foreign policy and national security strategy. He suggested earlier this week that President Obama's authorization of an attack against a U.S. citizen without due process was an impeachable offense, an assertion he repeated Wednesday.
Paul otherwise used his speech to announce a hefty $8 million fundraising haul for the third quarter before launching into a scathing indictment of federal overreach and a foreign policy he described as akin to the failed "empires" of history.
"This is what's happened throughout history," he said in his lengthy critique of America's "militarism." "Empires get too big, spread themselves too thinly around the world, and then they self-destruct."
Paul warned that US military presence in the Middle East could prompt retaliative terror attacks, saying the intelligence community has linked the presence of military bases in the region to the motivation for the 9/11 attacks.
"We're loading up the Arabian Peninsula with drones and cruise missiles," he said. "Do you think it's going to go unnoticed?! No, it's not going to go unnoticed."
Paul, a vocal critic of the Federal Reserve and banking interests, voiced support for the right of protesters on Wall Street to use "civil disobedience" to express their complaints against the nation's financial system.
"I can't speak for the people out there because I don't know who they are and exactly what they're demonstrating against. I can argue the case for their right to express their outright frustration with what's going on."
Paul said that his expectations-busting $8 million haul and 100k-plus donor base, formally announced at the beginning of his NPC remarks, demonstrates the appeal of his candidacy against other "status quo" GOP candidates.
He said that his fundraising amount, about half that of his fellow Texan, Gov. Rick Perry, signals that he is not beholden to "special interests" like his rivals.
"All donors are not equal."
In front of crowds of cameras and credentialed press, the presidential hopeful lamented his dismissal by the national media, noting that a recent straw poll victory in California was treated as a "nonevent."
"We have a uphill battle," he said.