Karl Rove, the controversial chiefpolitical adviser of U.S. President George W.Bush, has announced he will leave the White House at the end of August.
Rove, who is credited with designing the strategy that twice won Bush the White House, said Monday that he's leaving the president's side so he can begin the next chapter of his life with his wife and son.
Speaking briefly to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, with Bush at his side, Rove said the decision was not easy to make and is something he has mulled over since last summer.
"I will miss, deeply miss, my work here, my colleagues and the opportunity to serve you and our nation, Mr. President," he said, his voice shaking with emotion.
He told Bush he wants to continue their friendship of 34 years and keep on being Bush's "fierce advocate."
"Thank you again for this extraordinary opportunity," he told Bush before the two hugged and walked away from reporters.
Rove, who has been in the White House since Bush took office in 2001, told the Wall Street Journal in an article published Mondaythat he's been anxious to resign for more than a year but felt duty-bound to stay after the Democrats won control of Congress and Bush faced uphill battles over the Iraq war and key pieces of legislation.
But Rove said the tipping point was when White House chief of staff Josh Bolton said that any political aide who stays past Labour Day must stay until the very end— when Bush hands over the Oval Office to the next president in January 2009.
'We've been friends for a long time': Bush
Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff,has worked with Bush since he first ran for governor of Texas in 1993. On Monday, Bush emphasized to reporters thedepth of his relationship with Rove.
"We've been friends for a long time and we're still going to be friends," said Bush, who once nicknamed Rove"the architect" and the "boy genius."
The White House also issued its regrets for Rove's departure.
"Obviously it's a big loss to us," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino told reporters.
"He's a great colleague, a good friend and a brilliant mind. He will be greatly missed, but we know he 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. He will continue to be one of the president's greatest friends."
But some said Rove, who was also labelled by critics as "Bush's Brain," had become a political albatross for the Republican party. Although many Republicans admire Rove for his political skill and breadth of knowledge, some critics viewed him as a ruthless political player who would employ dirty tricks to win elections.
"A lot of people feel that Karl Rove is the prince of darkness," Washington political analyst Mark Plotkin told CBC News on Monday.
Rove appeared before a grand jury five times to answer questions about his role in leaking the name of a CIA operative to the media. He was never charged with any crime.
Seen as problem
Democrats have also sought to subpoena him for a congressional investigation into the political firings of U.S. attorneys.
Plotkin said the field of Republican candidates who want to replace Bush see Rove as a problem.
"Any Republican has enough of a problem running with George Bush but the Democrats would constantly use the name of Karl Rove to symbolize the very worst of the Bush administration."
Since Democrats won control of Congress in November, some top administration officials have announced their resignations.
Among those who have left are White House counsellor Dan Bartlett, budget director Rob Portman, chief White House attorney Harriet Miers, political director Sara Taylor, deputy national security adviser J.D. Crouch and Meghan O'Sullivan, another deputy national security adviser who worked on Iraq.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was forced out immediately after the election as the unpopular war in Iraq dragged on.
Rove is expected to write a book after he leaves.