And now the speculation starts. We may never know exactly why Karl Rove chose this moment to resign. The only thing we know for sure is that the reasons he gave weren't the real ones - to be with his family, to write a book, and because Josh Bolten told everybody to leave now or stay until the bitter end.
They're such formulaic explanations for a Washington departure that their only purpose could be semiotic - to let us know by their very implausibility that Karl's not telling the truth. For one thing, who believes that Josh Bolten - Josh Bolten! - could tell Karl Rove what to do?
Then there's the venue he used to make his announcement: An interview with Paul Gigot, who as editorial chief for the Wall Street Journal may be the only living editor of any political persuasion in North America who is still sympathetic to Rove.
In case there's any question whether Rove had some truth serum with his morning coffee, there's this chuckle-generating item: "The president calls (Rove) to chat about politics on Sunday mornings," writes Gigot, "and they have a contest to see who can read the most books." Write your own joke, as Ed McMahon used to say.
Mr. Gigot then adds in parentheses: "Mr. Rove is winning."
Gee, ya think?
Rove is facing a Congressional subpoena. And let's not forget his role in the Libby scandal. In what was probably a public threat/negotiating ploy, Libby's lawyers threatened to submit evidence that Scooter's actions were part of a broader criminal plot to protect Rove. It apparently worked, since they suddenly reversed themselves and offered only a token defense. Then, in what was an extraordinary exception even for cases of Presidential pardons, Scooter never served even a single day in jail. Funny, that.
So Rove is either leaving now because a) he wants to write that book, b) he wants to spend more time with his family, c) he thinks this will lower the pressure to have him testify before Congress, d) somebody said "we'll fix it with Scooter but when the heat dies down you have to leave town," e) all of the above, or f) there's something else going on we may never know.
Pick one. All we know for sure is that Karl Rove is gone. That means that from now on at Correspondents' Dinners, David Gregory dances alone.
In a cryptic addendum to this story, Bush observed in today's leave-taking ritual that "Karl Rove is moving on down the road." This odd phrasing, with its "ease on down the road" Wiz vibe, was followed by this: "I'll be on the road behind you in a little bit."
What an strange piece of hillbilly kabuki. It won't be long afore I'm there with ya, Hattie, so tell St. Peter to hold the door. This White House is going to be even more tone-deaf without Karl.
Best speculation I've read so far on the departure is Rick Perlstein's.