PARIS – France's Socialist President Francois Hollande is drawing comparisons to former Republican President George W. Bush by tacking rightward with a forceful declaration of war on the Islamic State group he holds responsible for what some are calling France's 9/11.
Hollande's bold talk of a war on terror is comforting to many French people still in shock, harkening back for many to Bush's macho stance as he addressed crowds in New York through a megaphone.
Yet it's uncertain whether the tough posture will be enough to restore the image of the least popular president in modern French history — or to prevent far right leader Marine Le Pen from capitalizing on the attacks to push her anti-immigrant agenda in regional elections coming next month, which could hand her unprecedented power.
It also remains unclear whether, as emotions cool, Hollande may not start being blamed for allowing the terror to happen under his watch.
On Monday, Hollande said he plans to step up French airstrikes in Syria, and change the Constitution so that the government can revoke the citizenship of convicted terrorists born in France who have dual nationality. He also intends to increase the police force by 5,000 officers by 2017.
Far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen welcomed what she called "good shifts" in the president's policy. "The National Front will be vigilant on the implementation of the positive aspects (Hollande) raised," she said in a statement.
But she still criticized "huge gaps" in security policy and advanced her usual proposals — calling for France to retake control of its borders and stop immigration.
Le Pen has a serious chance of being elected head of a northern region of France in upcoming elections, according to several polls.
Hollande's conservative rivals have maintained their critique of Hollande's security policy, but none has gone as far as to call for his resignation — a common tactic in French political gamesmanship.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, now head of the conservative "Republicans" party, called for a new policy toward Syria and tighter security measures.
Political scientist Thomas Guenole believes Hollande's Socialist party will "drown" in regional elections. Left-leaning voters concerned about an erosion of civil liberties will choose far-left and green candidates, he said.
"Given that among proposals advanced by Hollande, several were historically put forward by the National Front, the National Front is going to win some votes because some of its ideas are legitimized by the president," said Guenole.
Press coverage of security lapses before the Paris attacks may also sway public opinion, Guenole stressed.
Hollande's popularity rose in January following attacks by Islamic extremists on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery. Since then, however, his support has plummeted.
Frederic Dabi, deputy general manager of Ifop opinion poll institute, said the government's strong reaction following the attacks could help Socialist candidates. Yet the National Front "could manage to gain votes by saying: 'We told you so,'" Dabi said in an interview with Paris Match magazine.
Laurent Joffrin, editor of the left-leaning daily Liberation, warned against the series of new security measures proposed by Hollande.
"We know where George W. Bush's strategy has got us ... Other European countries, in similar circumstances, did not invoke the state of emergency," he said. "Is its extension in France justified? Are the emergency measures consistent with our principles?"