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Lindsey Graham is the bluntest candidate for president

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., gives a thumbs up after being re-elected, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Columbia, S.C. Graham beat Democratic state Sen. Brad Hutto of Orangeburg. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
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You might not always agree with Lindsey Graham, but at least you know what the man thinks.

The Republican senator from South Carolina declared himself a candidate for president Monday morning. Although he enters the race as a conventional Republican, who favors a large military, intervention overseas, and bipartisanship in Congress, he has a tendency to express himself in very unconventional ways.

In recent months, he's suggested that U.S. elections are controlled behind the scenes by a cabal of a few dozen wealthy donors. He's implied that the president has the authority to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil using drones without judicial process, and that the military should invade Syria.

Unlike some of his rivals for the GOP presidential nomination, Graham has been clear about where he stands on the issues. Here's a look at his positions, in his own words.

On foreign policy:

"More American soldiers will die in Iraq, eventually in Syria, to protect our homeland."

-- Interview on CBS This Morning, May 18

Graham believes that the United States should use military force aggressively to keep the American people safe. He's made it clear that he thinks the armed services should fight violent extremist factions on the ground in Iraq and Syria. This kind of interventionism is standard among Republican presidential candidates, although perhaps only Graham has put it so directly, refusing to shy away from the inevitable consequences of foreign deployments.

He's also argued fiercely for the government to spend more money on the military. He's suggested that as president, he would all but carry out a coup, using the U.S. military to force Congress to eliminate reductions in the Pentagon's budget. "I wouldn't let Congress leave town until we fix this," he said. "I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to."

Perhaps Graham was exaggerating, although his use of the word "literally" suggests otherwise.

Sen. Lindsey Graham is possible White House contender. Here's his take on Obamacare, guns and more. (Video: Julie Percha/The Washington Post)

On surveillance:

"If I'm president of the United States and you’re thinking about joining al-Qaeda or ISIL [the Islamic State], I'm not gonna call a judge. I'm gonna call a drone and we will kill you."

-- Remarks at the Lincoln Dinner, Des Moines, Iowa, May 16

Graham's expansive view of presidential authority in the U.S. political system extends to his views on civil liberties.

He made this remark in responding to his fellow senator Rand Paul's comments on surveillance. Paul had said that the government's ability to monitor suspected terrorists needed to be balanced with American citizens' constitutional right to privacy. Graham's response suggested not only did he think that authorities could monitor the communications of an American suspected of terrorism without a warrant from a judge, but that authorities did not need to grant the suspect a day in court before taking lethal action.

Graham might also have had in mind Paul's filibuster in 2013, which was a protest against the Obama administration's stance on drones. With his filibuster, Paul extracted a commitment from the administration not to use drones against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, although several Americans have died in strikes overseas.

Highlights from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham's announcement that he's seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2016. (Video: AP)

On climate change:

"Climate change is real... and it's going to make the world even a much more dangerous place."

-- Interview with E&E Daily, October 13, 2009.

Given Graham's concern with national security, it's unsurprising that he's taken an interest in global warming, which many in the military worry will create instability worldwide. Indeed, there arealready argument that drought was one cause of Syria's civil war.

Graham has called on Republicans to seriously debate the question of climate change, and environmentalists are glad to see him running, as Rebecca Leber reports in The New Republic.

On the Republican Party and the Hispanic vote:

"The party has got to be bigger than Utah and South Carolina."

-- Interview on Fox News Sunday, June 23, 2013.

Graham has been willing to criticize his party on other issues as well.

Like many other Republicans, he worries that his party's appeal is limited mainly to white voters, and that Latinos -- many of whom are culturally conservative -- could persuaded to support GOP candidates. To that end, he was one of a group of lawmakers who moved a comprehensive immigration reform bill through the Senate in 2013. The bill would have dedicated even more money to deploying agents and equipment along the Mexican border, while allowing immigrants here illegally to become citizens if they met certain requirements.

The legislation failed when Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) refused to bring it to a vote in the House.

On elections:

"Basically 50 people are running the whole show."

-- Interview with Reuters, Nashua, N.H., April 18

Graham believes that a small group of wealthy contributors have too much power in the political system, and that their ability to fund campaigns gives them control over candidates that will alienate voters. He also said he thought the Supreme Court went too far in its decision in the Citizens United case, which relaxed the rules on donations.

He's not alone in this view. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of state and prohibitive favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination, made similar remarks after announcing her campaign, and a number of Graham's GOP rivals have also said they're dissatisfied with the current system.

[Read more: Big money in politics is an issue in the 2016 campaign.]

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