The man who has been putting words in President Bush's mouth for the past seven years says he is leaving the White House.
Michael Gerson, who went from chief speechwriter in the first term to senior adviser in the second, wants to pursue other writing and policy work, Bush spokesman Ken Lisaius said Wednesday.
Gerson's departure follows on the heels of some of Mr. Bush's other most longtime aides, including Chief of Staff Andy Card and press secretary Scott McClellan. Card and McClellan left as part of a shake-up designed to improve Mr. Bush's standing when polls are low and some policy ideas have been failing, but White House officials said Gerson was not part of that.
Gerson told The Washington Post that he had been talking with Mr. Bush for months about leaving but waited until the White House political situation had stabilized somewhat.
He told The New York Times that he chose to depart now because the White House is having a run of good news and the time seemed right. "This was a case where many good things are coming together at the White House," Gerson told the newspaper. "And it to some extent makes it easier to leave."
Gerson started working for Mr. Bush in 1999 in the early days of his presidential campaign, and he became one of his most trusted aides. He had a West Wing office, unusual for speechwriters in recent history.
Some of Mr. Bush's most-repeated signature phrases, such as "the soft bigotry of low expectations" or "the armies of compassion," were Gerson's handiwork. As The New York Times notes, Gerson is also credited with giving voice to Mr. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" and his line, "axis of evil."
An evangelical Christian and former theology student, Gerson also was known for infusing his work for Mr. Bush with spirituality.
"Everyone at the White House will be very sad to see Mike Gerson depart," Lisaius said. "He has been one of the president's closest advisers and he will be missed."