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The Departure of Karl Rove

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The Monday morning bombshell is Karl Rove’s announcement that he will shortly leave the service of President Bush. Here’s the AP account:

Karl Rove, President Bush’s close friend and chief political strategist, plans to leave the White House at the end of August, joining a lengthening line of senior officials heading for the exits in the final 1 1/2 years of the administration. On board with Bush since the beginning of his political career in Texas, Rove was nicknamed “the architect” and “boy genius” by the president for designing the strategy that twice won him the White House. Critics call Rove “Bush’s brain.”

A criminal investigation put Rove under scrutiny for months during the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative’s name but he was never charged with any crime. In a more recent controversy, Rove, citing executive privilege, has refused to testify before Congress about the firing of U.S. attorneys. Bush was expected to make a statement Monday with Rove. Later Monday, Rove, his wife and their son were to accompany Bush on Air Force One when the president flies to Texas for his vacation.

The Associated Press devotes the balance of the article to a recounting of Rove’s role in the Valerie Plame investigation, including an appearance before the grand jury at which he gave false evidence—which he subsequently “corrected.” Do they know something we don’t?

A few stray thoughts:

  • in the Bush White House, as with predecessors in the past, the resignation of a key staffer frequently means that trouble is just around the corner. An indictment? Another criminal investigation? Documents in the hands of Congressional investigators which are likely to explode on the public stage? Each of these is a possibility.

  • the fact that Rove will no longer be at the White House and no longer in Government service erodes, but does not entirely eliminate the claim of Executive Privilege with respect to his testimony and his documents.

  • Karl Rove has been termed “Bush’s Brain” and his “co-president,” a man who was always careful to understate his influence on Bush personally, but who was undeniably the most influential man in the White House. His departure will clearly mark a major turn in the Bush presidency.

  • It might even be that, as Rove claims, he is leaving to spend more time with his family. That, of course, is the standard line used in Washington, and it doesn’t sound much in character for Karl Rove.

NPR is reporting that the White House had told staff that if they stayed beyond Labor Day, they would have to make a commitment to the end. Most presidencies hemorrage talent in their last year, as this is the prime period during which a staffer can most easily land a good job on the outside.

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