"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 . . . 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.
Asked about New York politics, Rove called Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a "relatively weak candidate" vulnerable to challenge. A 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. Rove defends the Iraq war, 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 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 was interrupted twice by protesters. He said: "Thanks for buying the book."
Henn and Hannelore Totsas, both 73, of South Jamesport, said they were political independents who respected Rove.
"He will go down in history," Henn said. His wife finished the sentence: "Controversial or not."