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Political Strategist Karl Rove Resigns

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

On this day that his resignation is becoming known, let's take a moment to note the career of Karl Rove. He's a longtime Republican strategist. He directed the Republican takeover of Texas politics. His biggest star, George W. Bush, went on to the White House. And Rove spoke of a permanent Republican majority in the nation - until the fall of 2006.

He was talking with NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED when he confidently predicted one more victory.

Mr. KARL ROVE (Deputy White House Chief of Staff): I'm looking at all these, Robert, and adding them up, and I add up to a Republican Senate and a Republican House. You may end up with the different math but you're entitled to your math, I'm entitled to the math.

INSKEEP: In this case, though, the Republicans lost.

NPR White House correspondent David Greene has been covering this story. And David, I wanted to play that piece of tape because it just seems - even though his prediction wasn't right that time, it seemed like a classic moment for Karl Rove.

DAVID GREENE: Oh, it's so Rove, Steve. And you know, a lot of people wondered whether he would be right because on the eve of President Bush's re-election in 2004 - I remember covering it - we were talking to Karl Rove and he made this bold prediction that the president was going to pull out the race against John Kerry. He was going to win Ohio and Florida - but that he would lose Pennsylvania. And that's exactly how things shook down and the president came back to the White House.

INSKEEP: He also built this reputation as a guy who would be incredible at studying poll numbers and other kinds of numbers and finding things that other people overlook.

GREENE: Well, exactly. And he would spout out all these statistics and, you know, you always wondered, is this spin or does Karl Rove actually have these numbers that no one else has access to? And time and time again he actually turned out to be right. But as you said, he was certainly not right with this Democratic takeover recently.

INSKEEP: Okay. So why is Rove leaving the White House now?

GREENE: Well, he said in a Wall Street Journal interview that this is now the time to spend, you know, more of his time with his family. He has a son who's in college in Texas and he wants to spend more time with his wife.

But he also said in the interview that he wasn't going to make this decision based on whether it pleases the mob. And it's been quite a mob. Democrats have been subpoenaing him. They want to - you know, Democrats think he was really the one behind the firing of U.S. attorneys last year. It also looked like he was going to be indicted in the investigation of who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, and he was not in the end. He survived that.

So you get the sense that this might be a moment he chose when at least he could say that this was his decision and that he's not being forced out by circumstances.

INSKEEP: Also an extremely difficult time for his boss.

GREENE: Indeed. And Rove, actually, in something of a parting shot in The Wall Street Journal, said, you know what? The war is going to get better in Iraq. The president's poll numbers are going to come up. And so he's making more Rove-style predictions.

INSKEEP: So how close has he been to this president?

GREENE: Really close, Steve. They met, you know, some 30 years ago when Rove was working for Mr. Bush's father at the Republican National Committee and been with Bush in his run for governor. And the president's called him the architect because he really built the strategy that brought George W. Bush to the White House and kept him there.

And one White House official said this morning that the two of them - Mr. Bush and Karl Rove - are going to remain the greatest of friends. And Mr. Bush has stuck by Karl Rove through a lot, through the career. And you know, Rove's been accused by Democrats of dirty political tricks and injecting politics into everything. And President Bush has I don't think ever regretted having him by his side and he stuck by him.

INSKEEP: David, thanks very much.

GREENE:: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR White House correspondent David Greene on this morning when the Wall Street Journal first reported and NPR has now confirmed that Karl Rove is leaving his job as political counselor, a close adviser to President Bush at the White House. He says he wants to spend more time with his family. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
David Greene
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.