The former U.S. leader told CNN host Piers Morgan that he could (potentially, maybe) be in the running for the commander-in-chief role in both Ireland and France. “There are only two countries I’m eligible to run for the leadership positions,” Clinton claimed on Piers Morgan Tonight. “I can run for president of Ireland, because of my Irish heritage.” And, argued, he could be president of France, because he was born in Arkansas — which was once part of the Louisiana Purchase and therefore part of the former French empire. He’d just have to move to France for six months and learn the language.
Unfortunately for Clinton, as numerous sources have pointed out, it’s not really going to be that easy. Although the 42nd president does claim some Irish heritage, neither of his grandparents were Irish — a prerequisite for citizenship under Irish law. The only exception to this is if Clinton’s parents or grandparents had registered with the Irish Foreign Birth Register during their lifetimes. He wouldn’t be the first Irish president to have been born in the U.S. — Eamonn De Valera(1882-1975) was born in New York and had an Irish mother — but without satisfying either of the above requirements his chances seem remote.
As for running for the French head of state, the article Clinton quoted on CNN has recently been changed. He most likely took his information from an open letter written by political scientist Patrick Weil in 2001 to the New York Times. The letter stated that:
Under Section 5 of Article 21-19 of the French civil code, citizens of states or territories over which France has ever exercised sovereignty or extended a mandate or protectorate may apply immediately for naturalization, without the normal five-year residency requirement. Arkansas, where you were born, was once part of French Louisiana. And as a naturalized French citizen, you would have the same full rights as all other French citizens. That includes running for the presidency.
What Weil failed to mention was that these rules only apply to those territories still under French authority after 1930. Furthermore in 2006, this law was repealed under the guidance of the then Minister for the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy. This leaves Mr. Clinton two options: he can either move to France for five years to gain citizenship, or marry a French woman.
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That’s not to say that his comments on Piers Morgan didn’t arouse a flurry of interest in both Paris and Dublin. LeParisien.fr received comments from readers encouraging the ‘charismatic’ leader to run for office. As one Paris-based journalist put it:
AnneElisabeth Moutet (@moutet) September 27, 2012
Ireland’s responses tended to be a bit more humorous:
Donal O'Keeffe (@Donal_OKeeffe) September 27, 2012
Edward Burke (@Edward__Burke) September 26, 2012
Clinton, for his part, seemed to accept that his chances were slim and that his popularity in France would most likely be fleeting. “Once they heard my broken French with a Southern accent I would drop into single digits within a week,” he admitted on the show.
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