ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This week, the Wall Street Journal has reported on some of the emails that Mitt Romney wrote when he was governor of Massachusetts. And those emails document his very active role in getting the Massachusetts health-care plan passed, including his strong advocacy of the individual mandate, the requirement that people buy health insurance.
Joining us now from Boston is Journal's senior editor, Mark Maremont. Welcome.
MARK MAREMONT: Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: And first, you should explain how the Wall Street Journal gained access to these emails of Gov. Romney.
MAREMONT: At the end of the Romney administration in 2006, the governor and his aides thought that they had done a sort of thorough electronic housecleaning. They bought - paid $65 apiece, actually - for 17 hard drives from personal computers that were used in the governor's office and by his aides. And they wiped all the emails off a computer server that - sort of a backup server for the governor's office.
It turned out that there were some emails that were accidentally retained from one of the cabinet officials who was copied on some of the emails, but not very many of them. And we found out about this, and we filed a Public Records Act request to get copies of the emails.
SIEGEL: Well, on health care, what do they show?
MAREMONT: Well, they certainly show that the so-called individual mandate that's become somewhat controversial since then, was a central plank in the Romney administration's health-care plan - and of course, has become a central plank, and controversial, in the Obama administration's health-care plan that's now being reviewed by the Supreme Court.
And the emails show that inside the Romney administration, they were pushing this individual mandate, which requires everyone to buy health insurance or pay some kind of a penalty. They were pushing it, you know, pretty heavily - over some reluctance from the Massachusetts Democratic Party and Democratic leaders.
SIEGEL: This is a glimpse of the days just a few years ago, when the system that was approved in Massachusetts was identified with a Republican approach. A lot of Democrats would have preferred, simply, a state insurance program like Medicare.
MAREMONT: Yes, that's correct. And also, some of the Massachusetts Democrats were pushing - instead of an individual mandate requiring every person to buy health insurance, they wanted to push the onus, essentially, on the employer; to require the employer to provide health insurance. And Gov. Romney was against that because the individual mandate was seen as much more of a - at that point, as sort of a right wing approach to the problem - using the private sector insurance system and just, you know, requiring the individual to buy into that.
SIEGEL: There is an interesting detail you came up with here, which was a draft of an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, in which then-Gov. Romney made a statement - which was later deleted when the piece was published - about the individual mandate that actually, sounds exactly what a defender of the Affordable Care Act would say today.
MAREMONT: Yes. I mean, as a journalist, I suppose I should mention that he's actually quite a good writer. He wrote it himself. But also, that he - he included some language in there that never made the final; that - basically that if the individual does not take responsibility, does not buy health insurance, then it becomes a burden on the taxpayer, and that's a problem. Well, that's very similar to the argument that the Obama administration is using today. And it sort of makes it difficult for Gov. Romney to distance himself from the Obama health-care plan.
SIEGEL: Mark Maremont, thank you very much for talking with us today.
MAREMONT: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: Mark Maremont spoke to us from Boston. He's a senior editor of the Wall Street Journal. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.