Washington: Top White House political adviser Karl Rove, who has often been called George W. Bush’s “brain” 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.
“I just think it’s time,” Rove told The Wall Street Journal. “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 specific 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% at the end of last month, the worst showing since president Jimmy Carter, sending alarm bells through the Republican establishment.
No reaction to the announcement, which was posted by the paper on its website at about 4:00 am, was immediately available.
The paper said Rove’s resignation as deputy White House chief of staff will become effective on August 31.
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 New York Times article, in which he claimed that the Bush administration’s assertion that the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein had explored ways of purchasing uranium ore from the African nation of Niger had no foundation in fact.
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 chaired 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 WSJ interview, despite criticism that the troop “surge” strategy announced by the president at the beginning of the year was not bearing any fruit.
Negative opinion polls nothwithstanding, Rove insisted Republicans had all that it would take to prevail in the 2008 elections, pointing out, “I think we’ve got a very good chance to do so.”
He predicted that a Republican 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.”