In late March, a senior official from the Republican Governors Association headed for Alaska on a secret mission. Sarah Palin was beset by such political and personal turmoil that some powerful supporters determined an intervention was needed to pull her governorship, and her national future, back from the brink. The official, the association’s executive director, Nick Ayers, arrived with a memorandum containing firm counsel, according to several people who know its details: Make a long-term schedule and stick to it, have staff members set aside ample and inviolable family time to replenish your spirits, and build a coherent home-state agenda that creates jobs and ensures re-election. Like so much of the advice sent Ms. Palin’s way by influential supporters, it appeared to be happily received and then largely discarded, barely slowing what was, in retrospect, an inexorable march toward the resignation she announced 10 days ago.
In mid-spring, as the country grew alarmed over the swine flu, Ms. Palin skipped a briefing for administration officials on the outbreak by her chief medical officer, Dr. Jay C. Butler. A spokeswoman, Sharon Leighow, noted that the teleconference took place about a month before the first case of the flu was reported in Alaska and that at the time the governor was meeting with top staff on the issue of federal stimulus funds. Since then, the state has had 122 confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu. Dr. Butler said he resigned his post in June in part because the administration asked one of his highly regarded division heads, the state public health director, Beverly Wooley, to resign. “I felt that it was not a good time to be downsizing,” said Dr. Butler, who is now working on a swine flu vaccination at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Butler said the governor’s office apparently deemed Ms. Wooley insufficiently supportive of the parental consent bill backed by Ms. Palin.
Allies like Mr. Malek chalked up the confusion to Ms. Palin’s reliance on one aide to juggle the PAC’s demands. Mr. Malek said he urged Mr. Ayers, the governors’ association official, to write his memorandum and head to Alaska to get Ms. Palin’s operation in order. Mr. Malek said he told Ms. Palin that “you have got to set up a mechanism so you can return calls.” “You are getting a bad rap,” he recalled saying. “Important people are trying to talk to you. And she said, ‘What number are they calling?’ She did not know what had been happening.”
Hope for the intervention’s success soon faded. Despite advice to stick close to home and focus on an Alaska agenda, the governor accepted an invitation to attend an anti-abortion dinner in Indiana in April, even though the state budget was hanging in the balance in the Legislature. When Tom Wright, chief of staff for the speaker of the Alaska House, suggested that the governor would catch heat for leaving, Ms. Palin stormed into his office and, according to a person familiar with the conversation, “proceeded to ream him out.”