Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said President George W. Bush had a "race problem" during Hurricane Katrina, but she defended him against his critics who, she said, tried to use the "race card" against him, according to excerpts from her upcoming memoir, No Higher Honor, published in Newsweek.
In the book, Rice recounted how she went shopping at the expensive Ferragamo shoe store in New York and returned to her hotel:
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.
Rice, who grew up in racially segregated Birmingham, Ala., said in September 2005 that race and poverty came together "in a very ugly way" in the "Old South."
However, in the memoir, she defended Bush against some who used the "explosive 'race card' to paint the President as a prejudiced, uncaring man." "It was so unfair, cynical, and irresponsible," she wrote.
It's not the first time she has defended Bush's handling of Katrina. In a 2009 appearance on "The View," she said, "What really did make me angry was the implication that some people made that President Bush allowed this to happen because these people were black."
Rice has expressed regret for the New York City trip before Katrina, especially for shopping at an expensive shoe store. She again wrote about the trip to New York, where she saw the show "Spamalot" and the Drudge Report noticed. "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?"