"I can't go back and do what I did before," Rove said at The Book Revue in Huntington, where he signed hundreds of copies of his new book, "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight."
"I will be politically active for the rest of my life, but I can't go back and run political campaigns, you know, helping people win state senate elections," Rove said in an interview. "That's just not what life is about."
Rove, whom Bush called "The Architect," served as Bush's deputy chief of staff and senior adviser for nearly six years. As a GOP political consultant for nearly 30 years, his very name conjured, for Democrats at least, a no-holds-barred campaign style effective at winning elections.
At 59, Rove said he's happy as a political pundit, with frequent appearances on the Fox News Channel and regular columns for The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. "Yeah, I have a great life," he said.
Rove said New York elections are especially intriguing this year. He called Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a "relatively weak candidate" vulnerable to a challenge and said a GOP gubernatorial primary involving Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, a Democrat, would be "healthy" for Republicans.In "Courage and Consequence," released Tuesday, Rove writes about his childhood and questions about his father's sexual orientation. The book also covers the Bush presidency in great detail, with Rove defending the Iraq war and writing that his biggest mistake was allowing critics to paint Bush as having lied about the existence of weapons of mass destruction.
A supportive crowd of about 300 filled the Book Revue and waited patiently for Rove, who arrived about 45 minutes late. Dressed in a gray suit with a blue spotted tie, Rove made jovial small talk with his fans.
"Hi I'm Karl Rove! Nice to meetcha!" he said, extending a hand to Kelly Goodridge, of Newtown, Conn.
Rove's appearance drew a few protesters, too. Outside, Walter Gafforio, 63, a Vietnam veteran from West Babylon representing Veterans for Peace, held a large sign reading "Torturer," referring to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq. Rove's signing was interrupted twice by protesters inside. Rove said: "Thanks for buying the book."
Henn and Hannelore Totsas, both 73, of South Jamesport, said they were political independents who respected Rove as a "historic figure."
"He will go down in history," Henn said. His wife finished the sentence: "Controversial or not."