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Rove chokes up on final day at White House

  • Story Highlights
  • Karl Rove's last day at the White House Friday
  • Bush top political adviser grew emotional during final staff meeting
  • White House pranksters wrapped Rove's car in plastic wrap Wednesday
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By Ed Henry
CNN Washington Bureau
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Karl Rove was nearly overcome with emotion Friday as colleagues privately paid tribute to the political adviser as he leaves the White House, senior officials say.

Karl Rove finds a toy stuffed eagle and plastic wrap on his car after coming back to Washington on Wednesday.

At the closed-door senior staff meeting at 7:30 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room, Rove was surprised with a slide show of photos chronicling his nearly seven years at President Bush's side, through good times and bad.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow told CNN that Rove was so touched by the tribute that he didn't have any final words for his colleagues. "He was pretty choked up," Snow said.

Although he didn't speak, Rove left farewell notes on the conference table for each senior aide, thanking them for their friendship.

Aides were not planning to throw a farewell party, typically held at Blair House across the street, because Rove and his wife were heading out of town in the afternoon for a vacation. Senior White House aides were planning to see the couple off on West Executive Drive in one last tribute.

Snow said that Rove's wife laid down the law and said the longtime political adviser had to get out of the office early. "Otherwise he'd be leaving at midnight," Snow said with a smile.

Meanwhile, it turns out Al Hubbard -- the normally strait-laced director of the National Economic Council -- was the prankster who covered the political guru's car with plastic wrap in the White House parking lot earlier this week as a send-off. Rove's last official day in the administration was Friday.

When he returned to the White House from the Gulf Coast on Wednesday night -- after commemorating the very serious second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina -- Rove found a comical scene. In addition to the plastic wrap, his prized Jaguar was plastered with signs like "I love Obama" and "King Karl" -- not to mention the two stuffed eagles fastened to the trunk.

Senior White House officials confide Hubbard was responsible for the prank as a bit of payback to Rove, who has been notorious around the West Wing for playing jokes on colleagues.

Hubbard has been one of Rove's favorite targets. Hubbard, for some reason, likes to leave his ignition key on his unlocked car's seat all day after parking in the morning.

Pouncing on a golden opportunity, Rove has often jumped into Hubbard's car during an idle moment and re-parked the vehicle in a different spot on West Executive Drive along the White House.

So the economic adviser would head out to his car after work. Where was it? Was it stolen? Not a chance -- the road is under heavy watch by the Secret Service. Rove had merely found another victim.

Hence Hubbard's payback this week -- though senior White House staffers suspect other officials were in cahoots with the economic adviser. "I think he had some help, but no one's 'fessing up," cracked one senior aide.

Hubbard was spotted yukking it up with Rove when the outgoing aide first saw his car in disarray.

Who knew that economists were so much fun? E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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