MICHELE NORRIS, host:
President Bush showed obvious emotion saying goodbye to his longtime friend and confidante, and he said he, too, would be following Rove back to Texas soon, not for vacation but as a permanent resident. A number of former trusted hands already have made that trip, but with 17 months remaining in his presidency, Rove's departure highlights the uncertainty ahead.
Joining us to talk about that is NPR White House correspondent David Greene. He joins us from station WOI in Des Moines, Iowa. That's where David's covering the race for the next president. But I guess first to the present occupant of the White House. David, thanks for joining us.
DAVID GREENE: Sure thing, Michele.
NORRIS: First of all, the mood around this parting seemed to be very emotional, that continued later in the day on Air Force One flying down to Texas. These two men are very close.
GREENE: They are. And President Bush is making his annual August trip down to his ranch, and Rove was coming along, and there was a real breach of protocol at Andrews Air Force Base. Mr. Bush signaled for Rove to walk to the plane with him and with the first lady. And, you know, it's an honor that usually they leave just to the first couple as the cameras are shooting away. And then on board, Rove invited reporters who were traveling on the plane to come back, and it sounded like it was vintage Karl Rove. He threw open a bag of cookies. He had a green tie on with greyhounds. He's very proud of his goofy tie collection. And he spoke about he and the president had always planned for them to leave the door of the White House together, but that it just didn't work out that way. And Rove said he's ready now for more time with his family.
NORRIS: Karl Rove is often described as a Machiavellian strategist. Often described, sometimes, as even Bush's brain. You've covered the White House for some time. Help us understand his role in this administration.
GREENE: Well, it was much more than political strategist. I mean, he really was of the same mind of President Bush, it seemed, on policy, on strategy, on everything. And to the dismay of a lot of Democrats, I think, who felt that a political strategist should not be shaping domestic policy and sitting in on all the national security meetings. And, you know, Mr. Bush even elevated Rove's title and made him the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. He later took Rove's policy portfolio away. But Mr. Bush has known Rove for, you know, 34 years, and he trusts his instincts, not just when it comes to campaigns, but all the time and, I think, on all the issues.
NORRIS: So if he had his hands in so much policy, his arms reach so deep within the White House, what would they do without him?
GREENE: Well, there's 17 months left, and, you know, it's not a lot of time for big new ideas and big new policy proposals. There's no campaign left. So this is a natural moment, I think, in, you know, in the sunset of a presidency, so to speak, for senior aides to leave, as we've been seeing, and it doesn't necessarily rock the boat that much.
But on a personal level, I mean, we have to look back at Mr. Bush's tight circle of all these Texas advisers. You know, Karl Rove, Dan Bartlett, Karen Hughes, people he trusted to such an extent. These are not cabinet secretaries, but these are the people who are in the West Wing and are walking by him and meeting Mr. Bush all the time. And now Rove is the last of the big three out the door. And, you know, past presidents talk about how lonely White House could be, especially in those final days. And I think it just got a lot lonelier for Mr. Bush without Rove.
NORRIS: Out the door, but is there a chance that he's really just changing venues, and he's getting out of the White House, but will still be very much in touch with the president?
GREENE: Certainly, without the natural contact you get in the halls of the West Wing, it can't be the same. But, you know, Karen Hughes kept in touch with the president after she left, and he brought her back...
NORRIS: And came back.
GREENE: ...on trips and, yeah, in some important speeches and did some speech writing. So, I expect we'll see some sort of version of that with Karl Rove. He's not going to be going.
NORRIS: Just quickly, any chance that he'll be picked up by one of the many 2008 presidential candidates?
GREENE: Well, it's not clear. You know, he said he's not going to be a political consultant anymore. And he said on the plane today, though, that he has friends in all the campaigns. So he's making a point of reminding people how well connected he is. But, you know, I don't know if there's a Republican candidate out there right now who wants to tie himself so closely to President Bush in bringing Karl Rove, but there's a long way to go.
NORRIS: Thank you, David.
GREENE: Thanks, Michele.
NORRIS: That was NPR's White House correspondent David Greene. He joined us from Iowa.
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