Brooks succeeds Christopher DeMuth, who rescued AEI from financial collapse and led it for two decades. Today, AEI has 145 resident scholars (along with 80 adjuncts) and a budget of about $30 million. "I don't want to sound like I'm sucking up, but I think Arthur was a brilliant choice," said Murray, who remains at AEI. Brooks brings new energy at what Murray describes as "both one of the most important and one of the most interesting times I have ever experienced at AEI."
AEI has been a hothouse for conservative solutions that often spark controversy before finding their way into policy. Murray, for instance, wrote in 1984 that the welfare system was oppressing, not helping, the poor. Such ideas were embraced by President Reagan but eventually also influenced President Clinton, who signed into law a major welfare overhaul. Scholars at AEI advocated ousting Saddam Hussein long before President Bush acted.
An administration change doesn't necessarily leave AEI out of the competition for policy ideas. Senior Fellow Karlyn Bowman, a politics and media scholar who has seen AEI's fortunes shift before during her 30 years at the institution, said AEI's best hope in changing times is to stay the course. "Think tanks," she says, "rise and fall because of product more than the current occupant of the White House."
AEI, Brooks says, is positioned to take part in shaping the debate over the conservative movement's next stage. "There is no turnaround that needs to happen here," he says. "The creativity is going to come in making sure that, in changing political and economic terrains, we can sustain success ."