The Karl Rove era will come to a close at the end of this month, as George Bush's key aide has told the Wall Street Journal he will return home to spend time with his family. For any other departure, that would sound like a euphemism for "I got canned". For Rove, who has served as Bush's effigy for many of his critics, the wonder is how he managed to put up with the abuse for so long:
Mr. Rove, who has held a senior post in the White House since President Bush took office in January 2001, told Mr. Gigot he first floated the idea of leaving a year ago. But he delayed his departure as, first, Democrats took Congress, and then as the White House tackled debates on immigration and Iraq, he said. He said he decided to leave after White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten told senior aides that if they stayed past Labor Day they would be obliged to remain through the end of the president's term in January 2009.
"I just think it's time," Mr. Rove said in the interview. "There's always something that can keep you here, and as much as I'd like to be here, I've got to do this for the sake of my family." Mr. Rove and his wife have a home in Ingram, Texas, and a son who attends college in nearby San Antonio. ...
Mr. Rove has advised Mr. Bush for more than a decade, working with him closely since Mr. Bush first announced he was running for governor of Texas in 1993 and serving as chief strategist in his presidential campaign in 2000. Before joining the White House, he was president of Karl Rove & Company, the Austin, Texas-based public affairs firm he founded. Mr. Rove first became involved in Republican politics in the 1970s.
Rove originally wanted to depart in 2006, but didn't want to be seen as leaving as a result of the midterm elections. That fits his character; Rove is a fighter, a sort of happy warrior who loves being in the middle of debates and political fights. Had Bolten not drawn a bright line among Bush's staff, he may never have pulled the trigger on his departure.
(An aside: this is the first clear indication to the conspiracy theorists on the Left that Bush doesn't intend to declare himself Emperor. More will follow.)
What will Rove do now? According to Paul Gigot, whose interview produced the WSJ's scoop, he'll write a book about his White House experiences. That should sell millions, and he'll need the money; he's paid off all the legal bills, but more may come. His resignation probably won't stop Congress from demanding his testimony, especially now that he plans to write a book that will touch on the most sensitive details of political action in the White House. Rove may also teach in Texas.
It sounds as if he's through with political consulting. He's done it for a couple of decades, and the high-profile and high abuse of the last seven years has burnt him out. That didn't stop him from putting out a few predictions and valedictory advice for the GOP in the Gigot interview. Among them, he predicts that the Democrats will nominate the "fatally flawed" Hillary Clinton -- no great surprise -- and that the Republicans will beat her.
CQ readers will remember that I have had the pleasure -- and I use that word deliberately -- of meeting Karl Rove twice, once in DC and once here in the Twin Cities. On both occasions, Rove kept the room laughing while displaying a remarkable recall of numbers and polling trends. Despite everything that had been launched at him, Rove obviously relished his work and enjoyed talking about it. He pulled no punches, and he answered every question asked of him. Many of us were skeptical of his optimism in 2006, and correctly so, as it turned out, but he never took offense or belittled anyone for it.
His departure will no doubt be the subject of celebration for the president's most vociferous critics, but I think they'll wind up missing him more than the president's supporters. They won't have Rove to kick around any more, and after the shock wears off, it will become apparent how silly all the Rove-kicking was from the beginning.
UPDATE: Let's not get into another round of Plame rehashing, OK? Also, Karl Rove once told me that he reads CQ, so he may take an interest in the comments here. And if he does, perhaps I can persuade him to contact me for an interview on CQ Radio. The e-mail address is on the sidebar, Mr. Rove ...
UPDATE II & BUMP: Some people believe that Rove got pushed out rather than left of his own volition. He responded in typical fashion to CNN:
Karl Rove said Monday his resignation as President Bush's senior political adviser was not forced and that he plans to spend his post-White House career writing a book and teaching.
Perhaps Bush's most powerful White House aide, Rove submitted his resignation to Bush on Friday, he told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux in an e-mail.
When asked for his reaction to those who say he's being "run out of town," Rove responded, "That sounds like the rooster claiming to have called up the sun."
"Rove got fired" has to be one of the sillier memes that will arise in the aftermath of his departure. Why would he get fired now? All of his potential vulnerabilities have been exploited by the media and the Democrats to the nth degree already. Firing Rove would not gain the White House anything. If Bush wants to hold onto Alberto Gonzales, he's not about to fire Karl Rove.
Michelle Malkin has an intriguing post this morning on the Rove phenomenon:
Gigot lets Rove defend himself and his legacy, and what I see, alas, is the mark of self-delusion and blindness that has damaged the White House and the Beltway GOP. Rove pats President Bush (and himself) on the back for the disastrous Medicare entitlement expansion and the aborted Social Security reform effort. ...
Not a word here about the Harriet Miers debacle, the botching of the Dubai ports battle, or the undeniable stumbles in post-Iraq invasion policies.
And not a word about the spectacular disaster of the illegal alien shamnesty, which will be the everlasting stain Rove leaves behind.
I'd argue that in this instance, Michelle's making the same mistake as many on the Left do about Rove. Karl Rove did not make policy -- he just structured the President's message to win as much support for Bush policy decisions as possible. I highly doubt Rove selected Harriet Miers or his immigration policy; those decisions originated with Bush. I would agree with her about the lack of political preparation on the Dubai ports deal, but I'm not so sure that Rove was the man to blame for that as much as it was Andy Card and the White House press team.
Bush makes the policy and the appointments, and men like Rove sell them. You can't blame the salesman for the product.