WASHINGTON -- Top White House adviser Karl Rove, who has often been called George W. Bush's political guru and linked to the most controversial decisions of his presidency, said in an interview published Monday that he will resign at the end of this month.The White House confirmed his impending departure, calling it "a big loss."
"I just think it's time," Rove told The Wall Street Journal of the resignation, which will take effect on August 31. "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."
No other reason was given. But the White House is under strong pressure from congressional Republicans, who see across-the-board losses in next year's presidential and congressional elections unless there is a strategic reassessment of the current course -- especially the war in Iraq.
Bush's overall job disapproval ratings stood at a dismal 63 percent at the end of last month, the worst showing since president Jimmy Carter, sending alarm bells through the Republican establishment.
White House spokesman Robert Saliterman said Rove "will be greatly missed," adding, however, that the president's adviser "wouldn't be going if he wasn't sure this was the right time to be giving more to his family, his wife Darby and their son."
An astute political operator from Texas who has been with Bush since his Texas gubernatorial campaigns of the 1990s, Rove has been under fire since 2003, when retired US diplomat Joseph Wilson claimed he had illegally leaked to the media the identity of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, a covert CIA employee.
Wilson asserted the leak had been orchestrated in retaliation for his questioning the Bush administration's rationale for war in Iraq. Wilson wrote in a commentary that the White House claim that Iraq's Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase uranium ore from the African nation of Niger was false.
The claim, made by Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address, was widely used to justify the subsequent invasion of Iraq.
The leak has effectively ended Plame's Central Intelligence Agency career.
The investigation led to perjury and obstruction of justice charges, and subsequent conviction of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former chief of staff for Vice President Richard Cheney.
But prosecutors determined last year there was no reason to charge Rove with any wrongdoing.
Although not directly involved in foreign policy decisions, Rove has been widely reported to have played a key behind-the-scenes role in persuading Congress to endorse the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
He led meetings of the White House Iraq Group, a special panel created eight months prior to the invasion to educate the public about the "threat" posed by Saddam Hussein.
"Iraq will be in a better place," Rove said in the Journal interview, despite criticism that the troop "surge" strategy announced by the president at the beginning of the year was not bearing any fruit.
A champion of bare-knuckled politics, Rove has been accused of masterminding last year's firings of eight federal prosecutors because they allegedly refused to pursue cases that could yield political benefits to Republicans, a charge the White House fervently denies.
He rarely minced words, even if they risked igniting controversy.
The White House strategist made headlines in 2005, arguing that following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, liberals wanted to "offer therapy and understanding for our attackers" instead of tough military action.
The charge prompted calls for his resignation from some leading Democrats and families of the 9/11 victims.
But it was all water off a duck's back until Republicans suffered withering losses to the Democrats in the 2006 legislative elections, losing control of both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Despite negative opinion polls, Rove insisted in the interview Republicans had all that it would take to prevail in the 2008 presidential and legislative elections. "I think we've got a very good chance to do so."
He predicted that a Republican presidential victory could be possible because Democrats were "likely to nominate a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate" by the name of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Asked if he felt he had committed any mistakes during his White House tenure, Rove said, "I'll put my feet up in September and think about that."
Copyright © 2007 AFP