Accessibility links

Breaking News

Rove Ends Long Career As Top Bush Adviser


The man known as President Bush's political alter ego, Karl Rove, is leaving the White House at the end of the month to return to private life. Rove has been Mr. Bush's top political strategist since before he ran for Governor of Texas in 1994. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more on Karl Rove's legacy from Washington.

It was a partnership born in the rough and tumble of Texas politics.

A long shot decision to take on a popular Texas governor in 1994 would eventually lead George W. Bush to the White House in 2000.

And all along the way, Karl Rove would act as his political right hand man. "We have been at this a long time. It was over 14 years ago that you began your run for governor and over ten years ago that we started thinking and planning about a possible run for the presidency. And it has been an exhilarating and eventful time," he said.

Shortly after his re-election in 2004, President Bush paid tribute to Rove as the architect of his victory over Democrat John Kerry.

In the wake of the announcement that Rove is leaving at the end of the month, the president chose to call him a dear friend. "We have known each other as youngsters interested in serving our state. We worked together so we could be in a position to serve this country. And so I thank my friend. I will be on the road behind you here in a little bit," he said.

As the key strategist for first Governor then President Bush, Rove learned lessons that paid big political dividends.

He would always advise candidates, whether they were running for president, Congress or local office, to stand for something.

"At the end of the day, you are more likely to get somebody to go vote if they are voting for something and someone, rather than voting against something," he said.

Current and former White House colleagues paid tribute to Rove as the key strategist in helping Mr. Bush win the presidency twice.

Former Bush adviser Karen Hughes worked closely with Rove on the election campaigns and now is the top public diplomacy official at the State Department.

"Polls rise and polls fall. I think Karl has been an instrumental part of what I believe has been a very successful, effective presidency," she said.

Democrats were more critical of Rove's legacy. Democratic Senator and presidential contender Barack Obama said Rove was the architect of a strategy that left the country more divided than any time in memory.

Democrats are also glad to see him go because he helped to beat them in presidential election cycles in 2000 and 2004 and in a Congressional midterm election in 2002.

But Rove got some of the blame last year when Republicans lost control of Congress, leading to a more mixed assessment of his political prowess by the experts.

"I have no doubt that Karl Rove has had an enormous amount of power and influence. He barely won in 2000 in a race he probably should have won easily," said Larry Sabato, who directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "He handily won the 2004 re-election race in a difficult environment. He completely blew 2006 and mis-predicted it even on election eve."

In addition setting the strategy for two Bush victories, Rove also worked to implement a broader goal of making Republicans the majority party in the U.S. and dominating both the presidency and the Congress for years to come.

But the president's sharply declining public approval ratings and discontent over the Iraq war seem to have dimmed Republican hopes for political dominance, at least in the short term.

Political scholar Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution in Washington says Rove will be remembered as the key formulator of Bush's winning strategy in two presidential elections.

"Karl Rove's place in history is as a campaign strategist who designed a flight plan for George W. Bush to be twice-elected President of the United States," he said.

Rove is apparently going to take a break from national politics during the 2008 campaign cycle, no doubt a source of frustration for a host of Republican White House contenders who would want to tap his political wisdom.

In addition, President Bush will have to serve out the last months of his presidency without the man he once called "the boy genius."

Wayne Slater is the author of a book entitled, Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush. He spoke to CBS television.

"He is a guy who plotted the planning for George Bush's gubernatorial race and said, I can make him president of the United States. The absence of Rove would create a situation sort of like Paul McCartney without John Lennon, the music will be different," he said.

Rove also got caught up in his share of political turmoil during his White House years. Democrats tried without success to tie Rove to the leaking of former CIA covert officer Valerie Plame's name in 2003. In addition, congressional Democrats continue to press Rove to testify about what role if any he had in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys last year.