He has managed to do so, at times through sheer force of will. Other representatives invite Hollywood celebrities to testify before their committees; Yates invited Yo-Yo Ma to play a Bach suite before his, soothing the savage breast of the NEA's opponents. After Democrats lost the House, the NEA budget was cut in half. This year, Yates is battling to save it once more. He now leaves that mission to two New Yorkers: Louise Slaughter, a Democrat, and Amo Houghton, a patrician Republican. Whether his successors in this role succeed or not, I suspect that Yates will one day be better remembered for another accomplishment: the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which he and his wife, Addie, worked for years to bring into existence.
As we finished lunch, I asked whether I was right in assuming Yates thought term limits were a bad idea. "To the contrary, Jacob," he declared. "Twenty-four terms is enough for anyone."