WASHINGTON, DC—A confused President Bush broke free from the restraint of Secret Service agents this morning and ran in pursuit of departing deputy chief of staff Karl Rove's car for several blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue before being outdistanced by the vehicle.
"Why can't I go with him?" Bush tearfully asked advisers as the longtime Republican strategist's sedan disappeared over the horizon. "When is he coming back?"
White House staff were deeply moved by the scene, saying that despite their best efforts, no one was able to explain to the president that he would no longer be able to remain at his chief adviser's side. Onlookers were clearly choked up as a tearful Rove, trying to close the car door behind him, told Bush in a stern, commanding tone to back away.
"Go on…you hear me? Get out of here, I say!" Rove said. "I don't love you anymore, understand? Now get! Get!"
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice witnessed the emotionally charged moment. "We knew that deep down [Rove] still cared, that he was only pretending to be mad at the president," she said. "But he had no choice. Leaving was the only way to avoid the ongoing Congressional inquiries."
Rove reportedly tried to prepare Bush for this inevitability in late July by taking him on a special fishing trip so they could spend some quality time together and he could also give Bush a brief rundown on how the presidency works. Rove said he "didn't have the heart" to break the news to the president, who fell asleep in their rowboat with the fishing pole still in his hands. On his last day, nearly two weeks later, Rove spent the whole morning with Bush before the tear-jerking exit, ruffling his hair, telling him to "be brave" and "listen to Cheney," and explaining that he was going to have to be "the man of the White House now."
Though Rove's resignation had been imminent for weeks, Bush appeared oblivious to the situation, which is evident in photos of him smiling as if nothing were wrong until the moment he discovered several suitcases near one of the West Wing's back-door exits. According to high-level administration sources, Bush asked Rove, "Where are we going?"
While sneaking the departing official out to a waiting town car, Secret Service agents were briefly able to deceive Bush by telling him Rove was just running down to the cellar to get him some ice cream. But when Bush heard the car's engine start in the driveway, he burst outside to stop Rove.
"I'll never forget the sight of the president, watching Rove's face in the back window becoming smaller and smaller as the car pulled away forever," Rice said.
The president continued to ask about his former adviser throughout the day, often clutching Rove's day planner, dialing his extension, and blinking uncomprehendingly when told that Rove was never coming back.
White House press secretary Tony Snow was finally called in to attempt to convey the reality of the situation to the president, but he was unable to do so.
"He kept looking up at me with those wide, innocent eyes, and I didn't know what to say," Snow told reporters. "Maybe someday when he's older, he'll understand how the public lost trust in his big buddy after a series of crucial political missteps, and how firing those attorneys and the…"
At this point in the briefing Snow fell silent, overcome with emotion, and moving many in the press room to tears.
White House officials say they would like to give President Bush more time to process the loss before pressuring him to appoint a new deputy chief of staff, since he does not yet appear ready to confront the concept of a "new Rove."
Bush sits in disbelief as his longtime buddy disappears forever and ever and ever.
Rove was finally able to leave the White House, despite Bush's heartrending stalling tactics.