Rove makes his exit

Karl Rove, the man many Democrats would most like to have seen evicted from the White House, now has decided to leave on his own. Thus ends a direct association with George W. Bush that even Bush admits was crucial to his political success.

Even Rove's most rabid detractors admit that he is a political and tactical genius. Bush called him "the architect"; his foes called him "Bush's brain," a moniker coined by James Moore and Wayne Slater in a Rove biography of the same name.

While Rove operated almost entirely behind the scenes, first as Bush's friend and key adviser in his campaign for governor of Texas and later as White House deputy chief of staff, he undoubtedly will rank as one of the best known presidential advisers in history. Many, however, will question the quality of the advice he offered.

In one sense, Rove was undeniably successful. His promotion of the interests not only of Bush but also the Republican party helped bring about a national political realignment that saw the ascendancy of neo-conservatives, evangelical Christians, anti-abortionists and social conservatives as the powerful base of the party. Rove urged Bush to continually appeal to that base for support and, with the addition of many independents and party moderates, they built a formidable majority that gave the GOP control of Congress and the White House for six years.

But the political genius, either out of hubris or blindness to the risk, may have overstepped. As the chief political operative in the White House, he became personally involved in controversies, including the firing of nine federal prosecutors and the outing of a CIA operative. And, perhaps foremost, he advised Bush to launch a war in Iraq that now is opposed by two-thirds of the American people.

Now, as he takes his leave, both houses of Congress are under Democratic control, and polls show Democrats in good shape to take back control of the White House in 2008.

Some observers have speculated that Rove is leaving the White House now so that he can get a head start on his account of the legacy of this administration. It will take all his genius to put a rosy glow on that legacy and his role in it.

View of Rove's contributions to the Bush administration is likely to be a mixed bag.