Add Condoleeza Rice to the series of George W. Bush White House members providing their version of events there.
You will recall that at the time Rice was slammed for shopping for shoes in NYC while New Orleans was being battered.
What’s so fascinating about this passage is how Rice, long regarded as Bush’s most loyal adviser (and apparently this is still the case), appears entirely to take the blame for being tone deaf whilst painting the president as entirely caring and attentive.
“I didn’t think much about the dire warnings of an approaching hurricane called Katrina. … I attended a Homeland Security principals meeting on Thursday, August 30, and returned to the State Department to check once more on plans for securing our offices in the Gulf of Mexico. Then I flew to New York. That evening, upon arriving at the Palace Hotel, I flipped on the television. Indeed, the hurricane had hit New Orleans. … I called Secretary of Homeland Security Mike Chertoff , inquiring if there was anything I could do. ‘It’s pretty bad,’ he said. We discussed the question of foreign help briefly, but Mike was clearly in a hurry. He said he’d call if he needed me. I hung up, got dressed, and went to see Spamalot.
“The next morning, I went shopping at the Ferragamo shoe store down the block from my hotel, returned to the Palace … and again turned on the television. The airwaves were filled with devastating pictures from New Orleans. And the faces of most of the people in distress were black. I knew right away that I should never have left Washington. I called my chief of staff , Brian Gunderson. ‘I’m coming home,’ I said. ‘Yeah. You’d better do that,’ he answered. Then I called the President. “Mr. President, I’m coming back. I don’t know how much I can do, but we clearly have a race problem,’ I said. ‘Yeah. Why don’t you come on back?’ he answered. I actually hadn’t expected that from the President. That’s odd, I thought. He’d been so insistent that I go and get some rest. He’s really worried. ‘Maybe I can go to Houston to represent you,’ I said. ‘Well, just come on back, and we can talk about it then,’ he replied.
“A few minutes later, my senior advisor, Jim Wilkinson, walked into my suite. ‘Boss, I should have seen this coming,’ he said. He showed me the day’s Drudge Report headline on the Web: ‘Eyewitness: Sec of State Condi Rice laughs it up at “Spamalot” while Gulf Coast lays in tatters.’ ‘Get a plane up here to take me home,’ I said. I … sat there kicking myself for having been so tone-deaf. I wasn’t just the secretary of state with responsibility for foreign affairs; I was the highest-ranking black in the administration and a key advisor to the President. What had I been thinking? … Later, the administration would … reach out to Donna Brazile, an influential Democratic activist, who was a native of New Orleans and who to this day acknowledges the President’s generosity toward her hometown. We ultimately decided that I’d go to Mobile in my home state of Alabama instead of Houston. It was a Sunday, so I’d have to go to church before visiting the victims of the hurricane. …
Read the rest of the excerpt and others from the book at The Daily Beast.
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