Karl Rove claims he’s resigning to spend more time with his family. Others note that he has been a central figure in investigations swirling around the Bush administration, including scrutiny of the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, illegal spying on Americans and the firing of U.S. attorneys. Still others say it was time for him to leave a lame-duck administration whose approval ratings have plunged to near-record lows.

Whatever the reason, Rove leaves behind a smoldering trail of social and economic wreckage. Overcoming this legacy will take the people of the United States and the world a long time and enormous effort.

As George W. Bush’s longest-serving and closest adviser, Rove is the poster boy for the worst of the extreme right corporate interests that have powered this administration’s drive to rule the world through perpetual war and to enrich the country’s wealthiest by gutting programs serving human needs.

Rove had a leading part in the attempt to privatize and thus destroy Social Security, the ramming through of a Medicare prescription drug plan that’s enriching Big Pharma, and the abandonment of largely Black working-class and poor Gulf Coast residents after Katrina.

Perhaps above all, he is known as the mastermind of vicious election tactics that helped install his boss in the White House in 2000 and keep him there in 2004. His “genius” included divisively exploiting so-called wedgeissues such as gay marriage and stem cell research to confuse voters and mobilize the GOP’s right-wing “base.”

As the Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote this week, “Rove boasted that he would forge an enduring ruling majority for conservatives, yoking the wealth of the global corporations and banks with the troops of the religious right. … The country will pay the price of his poisonous work for years to come.”

Fortunately, millions of Americans saw through the Rove/Bush fog last November, as voters reversed the Republicans’ control of Congress.

A next step on the road to undoing Rove’s legacy is the 2008 elections. Keep an eye on Rove, though. He may not be through with his dirty tricks.