Hot Docs: Obama's Approval Rating Slips, But GOP Hits New Low

Today's selection of timely reports.

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Obama Slips, GOP Hits New Low: President Obama's sky-high approval rating may be coming back down to Earth, but the GOP continues to mine new depths. A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press finds that Obama's approval rating is now at 59 percent, down from 64 percent in February. Approval of Republican congressional leaders continues to decline and is now at 28 percent, down from February's 34 percent. The rating is the lowest number for GOP leaders in nearly 14 years of Pew surveys. The poll, conducted March 9-12, queried 1,308 adults. Fifty-six percent of those polled said Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan was the right thing to do, and 47 percent approve of the job Democratic congressional leaders are doing. When asked who they think of as the leader of the GOP, 73 percent said they either did not know or there was none.

Consequences of an Israeli Airstrike: An Israeli airstrike against Iranian nuclear facilities is feasible but would be high risk and "lack any assurances that the overall mission [would] have a high success rate," according to a Center for Strategic and International Studies examination. The report, "Study on a Possible Israeli Airstrike of Iranian Nuclear Development Facilities," is part of an extensive CSIS examination of Iran's capabilities involving missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Consequences of such an attack, or even the threat of attack, are far-reaching. An attack would fuel regional instability and terrorism, the report said. In addition, the CSIS said, the greater the threat, "the more Iran will be determined to acquire nuclear weapons." The report also highlights the environmental damages should Israel attack the Bushehr Nuclear Reactor. Such an attack could release radioactive contaminates into the air that could spread to Bahrain, Qater, and the United Arab Emirates and cause thousands of deaths and cancers.

Somalia and the United States: The United States needs to take a step back and let Somalis work out their problems by themselves. The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point examines the Somalia situation in the March issue of its publication, the CTC Sentinel. "Somalia's New Government and the Challenge of Al-Shabab" looks at the history of al Qaeda in the country, its offshoots, the militant group called al Shabab (the Youth), recruitment of Somali-Americans, the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces, and the selection of a new government. The article argues, "the United States should continue to support the new government of national unity in spite of its imperfections, while remaining in the political background." It adds, "This is also the time for the United States to eschew military activity in Somalia." What the United States should do, however, is continue humanitarian assistance, help to establish a police force, and be ready to step in with development aid, the piece concludes.

GAO Undercover: A Government Accountability Office investigator was able to obtain U.S. passports from the State Department using counterfeit or fraudulently obtained documents. The GAO investigator made four such attempts, each successful. The GAO was asked to undertake the investigation by Congress and designed four tests using counterfeit or fraudulently obtained documents such as birth certificates, Social Security numbers, and drivers' licenses of faked or dead people. The counterfeit documents were all created with off-the-shelf materials. Three of the phony applications were submitted at U.S. post offices and the fourth at the State Department's regional passport issuing office in Washington, D.C. "Although we do not know what checks, if any, State performed when approving our fraudulent applications, it issued a genuine U.S. passport in each case," the report notes. "All four passports were issued to the same GAO investigator, under four different names." State Department officials "agreed that our findings expose a major vulnerability in State's passport issuance process."