No, Bill Clinton Can't Become President of France

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 27 2012 9:26 AM

No, Bill Clinton Can't Become President of France

Bill Clinton speaks during the session "Designing for Impact" at the Clinton Global Initiative on Sept. 23, 2012 in New York City

Photograph by Allison Joyce/Getty Images.

During an appearance on CNN earlier this week, Bill Clinton showed what appeared to be a remarkable—but not necessarily surprising—command of the topic: What Other Countries Could Bill Clinton Be President Of.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

"There are only two countries I'm eligible to run for the leadership position is if I move to Ireland and buy a house, I can—I can run for president of Ireland, because of my Irish heritage," the former U.S. president told Piers Morgan. "And because I was born in Arkansas, which is part of the Louisiana Purchase, any person anywhere in the world that was born in a place that ever was part of the French empire, if you move to—if you live in France for six months and speak French, you can run for president."


Naturally, that got people talking, both here and abroad. In Ireland, for instance, a headline in today's Independent reads: "Next resident of the Aras? Bill Clinton reveals he could run for Irish Presidency."

The problem? Clinton's wrong on both counts, as Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating explained last night.*

In short: Irish law would require that at least one of Clinton's parents or grandparents was an Irish citizen at the time of his birth, something the former president can't claim. (Technically, the current government could offer Clinton a waiver because of his more general Irish ancestry, but that would appear to be a long shot, to say the least.)

And France? He apparently got that idea from an open letter a political scientist wrote to him in the New York Times back in 2001 suggesting the idea. The problem there, however, is that after that letter brought attention to the Louisiana Purchase loophole, the French parliament went on to abolish the provision in 2006. Keating has all the details here.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Joshua Keating's last name.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 7:30 AM Ring Around the Rainbow
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.