Rove, the political guru who has guided Bush's career since he first ran for Texas governor in the mid-1990s, is giving up his policy portfolio to focus more on electoral politics as the fall midterm elections approach. Rove's replacement in the policy post will be Joel Kaplan, now the White House's deputy budget director.
Just more than a year ago, Rove was promoted to deputy chief of staff in charge of most White House policy coordination. That new portfolio came on top of his title as senior adviser and role of chief policy aide to Mr. Bush.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Rove was believed to have overreached by pressing for the partial privatiziation of Social Security at the beginning of Mr. Bush's second term. The proposal went nowhere. It was opposed by Democrats and many Republicans.
The job Rove held, deputy chief of staff for policy, is now being given to Joel Kaplan, the deputy budget director.
The move signals a broad effort to rearrange and reinvigorate the president's staff by new chief of staff Joshua Bolten. Bolten moved into his position last week; Kaplan was his No. 2 person at the Office of Management and Budget.
"Joel Kaplan is a man of great talent, intellect and experience who possesses a deep knowledge of policy and budget processes," the president said in a written statement.
CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod cautions against reading too much into the Rove move. Rove and Josh Bolten are very close, Axelrod says. From all reports, Rove now gets to concentrate more on his specialty – politics – with mid-term elections now a little more than a half-year away. And Bolten gets to put his own guy, Joel Kaplan, in to handle policy.
As one Republican insider put it, Axelrod reports, "doing both politics and policy, there were too many roads starting and ending with Karl. Josh felt that way. Karl felt that way."
At least for the time being, the promotion of Kaplan would leave Mr. Bush with three deputy chiefs of staff: Rove, Kaplan and Joe Hagin, who oversees administrative matters, intelligence and other national security issues.
McClellan, talking to reporters later aboard Air Force One, said that Kaplan's role will focus more on the day-to-day aspects of policy.
Asked whether the change in Rove's role was akin to what he used to do as political director, McClellan responded "I wouldn't look at it that way. ... Karl is someone who has always been intimately involved in the strategic planning and addressing these bigger strategic issues and this will free him up to do more of that."
He told Mr. Bush: "I have given it my all sir and I have given you my all sir, and I will continue to do so as we transition to a new press secretary."
McClellan, who has parried especially fiercefully with reporters on Iraq and on intelligence issues, said he's "ready to move on."
Mr. Bush said McClellan had "a challenging assignment."
"I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity," the president said. "It's going to be hard to replace Scott, but nevertheless he made the decision and I accepted it. One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas and talking about the good old days."
McClellan's resignation does not come as a surprise, reports CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante. Republicans close to the White House say outside advisers have been urging the president for some time to make changes in his communications staff.
What is not clear is who will succeed McClellan. The job has apparently been floated by a number of prominent people in the media and public relations circles in Washington and so far no one's willing to come on board.
McClellan was named press secretary in June 2003, not long after the United States invaded Iraq and had first been a deputy to Ari Fleischer in the job — a White House position with daily visibility rivaling virtually everyone there except the president.
After the announcement, Mr. Bush and McClellan walked across the lawn together and boarded Marine One, but a problem with the helicopter's radio kept it grounded. The president and his staff were forced to take a motorcade to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., where Mr. Bush boarded Air Force One for a flight to Alabama. McClellan and Rove rode in the president's limousine to the military base.
McClellan came back on the plane to the press cabin and shook hands all around. Someone said it was a sad moment, and McClellan replied, "It is sad on some level." He said he would accompany Mr. Bush on a trip to California this weekend and remain on the job for a couple more weeks.
He said he had been thinking seriously about leaving in the past few weeks since Andrew Card announced he was leaving.
"With a new chief of staff coming on board," McClellan said, "it was a good time to make this decision. And three years would have been an awfully long time in this position.
"I've been at this for a long time and I didn't need much encouragement to make this decision, even though you all kept tempting me."