For weeks, the White House, the secretary of the Army and the media have explained how Larry Lawrence got a coveted burial plot in Arlington National Cemetery As the New York Times put it, "Lawrence was injured at sea on March 29,1945, when the Liberty ship Horace Bushnell, laden with war supplies, was torpedoed by a German submarine in the Arctic."
White House special counsel Lanny Davis told anybody who would listen -- and many did -- that Lawrence "was thrown overboard and suffered a serious head injury. Had he been in the Navy and the same incident have occurred, he would have received a Purple Heart."
At the same time, Army Secretary Togo West (who since has been nominated to be secretary of veteran affairs) denied "categorically, without qualification, and forcefully" that there was any correlation between the granting of waivers and political clout. "I am the responsible person," he added. "Just not done. Not possible." West summed up why Lawrence was buried at America's most prestigious military cemetery: "He deserves to be there." As he put it, there was "nothing about that case that would have excited suspicion."
Nothing? What about the fact that the Horace Bushnell's manifest does not include Lawrence's name? Or the fact that the casualty list for the ship also has no record of the injuries so movingly described by the White House counsel?
On Dec.4, House Veterans' Affairs subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Terry Everett of Alabama produced these documents and announced that he was sending letters to Defense Secretary William Cohen and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, giving them 30 days to provide an explanation for the claims made on Lawrence's behalf.
Now that these documents have been released, the sacrilege of Lawrence being buried at Arlington is one problem facing the White House. The other problem is that a man who concocted a distinguished military history for himself was given all the security clearance necessary to become a U.S. ambassador.
How much corner-cutting was done when this big donor -- who gave $200,000 to the Clinton/Gore campaign in 1992 and raised more than $10 million for the Democrats over the years -- went job-hunting in the Clinton administration? And is it just a coincidence that his "vetting documents" have disappeared from the State Department?
My suspicions about Lawrence's "military" service were first raised when I read a Jan. 19, 1993, story in the San Diego Union-Tribune describing an emotional ceremony in which Lawrence "was honored at the Russian Embassy for his part in helping the Soviet Union stave off Nazi assaults. …