Karl Rove, credited with masterminding the rise of George W. Bush to the Texas governorship and then to the White House, announced yesterday that he will resign effective at the end of this month.
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.
At the South Lawn announcement, Mr. Bush said that he and Mr. Rove, who have been friends for 34 years, "worked together so we could be in a position to serve this country."
"I would call Karl Rove a dear friend," said Mr. Bush, who has seen many of his longtime advisers leave in the past year. "I thank my friend. I'll be on the road behind you here in a little bit."
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."
Mr. Rove held senior roles in both Mr. Bush's 2000 and 2004 election bids, which led the president to dub him "the architect."
"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."
Mr. Rove said he first mentioned resigning to the president a year ago, but stayed on after Democrats took control of Congress to help Mr. Bush with the Iraq war and immigration debates. He blamed the Republican loss of the House and Senate on personal scandals involving Republican lawmakers.
Mr. Rove said that Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten told White House officials that if they stayed past Labor Day, they would be expected to remain for the rest of Mr. Bush's term. No replacement has been named, though current White House counselor Ed Gillespie's name has figured in speculation.
One former Bush administration official said that Mr. Rove is leaving to focus all his energies on shaping Mr. Bush's legacy, partly through building the presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
"I think he's got the legacy mission now," the former administration official said. "He wants to make sure that president's place in history is appropriately shaped."
Mr. Rove said he would continue to be Mr. Bush's "fierce and committed advocate on the outside." He plans to write a book, with Mr. Bush's encouragement, about his time in the White House.
Several Democrats said the departure was intended to frustrate congressional probes of the U.S. attorney firings. However, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said that his panel "will continue its investigation."
"I'm realistic enough to understand that the subpoenas are going to keep flying my way," Mr. Rove said aboard Air Force One. "I'm Moby Dick, and we've got three or four members of Congress who are trying to cast themselves in the part of Captain Ahab."