WASHINGTON – The man who has been putting words in President Bush's mouth for the past seven years said Wednesday that 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, said Bush spokesman Ken Lisaius.
Gerson's departure follows on the heels of some of 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 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 Bush for months about leaving but waited until the White House political situation had stabilized somewhat.
Gerson started working for 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 Bush's most-repeated signature phrases, such as "the soft bigotry of low expectations" or "the armies of compassion," were Gerson's handiwork.
An evangelical Christian and former theology student, Gerson also was known for infusing his work for 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."