Mr. Rove, 56, who melded politics and policy in the White House during his 6½ years as a senior adviser to Mr. Bush, announced his departure yesterday standing with Mr. Bush on the White House South Lawn.
“I’m about ready to be unemployed,” Mr. Rove said, laughing, during an interview with The Washington Times. He said he wants to spend more time with his wife, Darby, and their college-age son, Andrew. But he said he has “no idea” what he’ll do besides that.
“I may do some of the speaking tour for a little while, but I really need to sit down and figure out what I’d like to do,” Mr. Rove said. “I’d like to teach, but in the meantime, I’ve probably got to figure out something I can make some money at.”
Mr. Rove said he would not play “any formal role in the presidential election” of 2008, but indicated that he would not disappear either.
“I suspect I’ll be seen on the political scene helping out my friends and responding to phone calls,” Mr. Rove told The Times.
Mr. Rove said his years at the White House has been a “joy and an honor,” steadied his emotions when he spoke to reporters for 20 minutes aboard Air Force One, en route with the president to his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Mr. Rove said the president is unpopular because “we’re in the midst of an unpopular war, and he’s been hammered by the Democrats. But I would point out to you,” he continued, “the Democrat Congress is less popular than the president, and they got there a heck of a lot quicker.”
“He will go down as one of the most powerful political aides in history,” said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who ran the losing 2000 campaign of Vice President Al Gore.
Republican leaders saluted Mr. Rove, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, saying he “has made an enormous contribution to our country and our party.”
Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, whom Mr. Rove helped defeat in the 2004 presidential election, sounded a different note.
“It’s a tragedy that an administration that promised to unite Americans has instead left us more divided than ever before,” Mr. Kerry said. “Without doubt, the architect of that political strategy was Karl Rove, who proved the politics of division may win some elections but cannot govern America.”