Maureen Dowd: Trump desperately craves acceptance from the elites he denounces

During his 2016 presidential bid, Donald Trump would sometimes pause from bashing elites and the media to speak with awe about a phone call he had with a Very Important Journalist. Trump puffed up with pride as he told the story to bemused rally-goers, who only moments before had been jeering at the press. It was, to say the least, a mixed message from the phony populist. During an interview in June 2016 at Trump Tower, Trump bragged to me about the call with the journalist, who turned out to be New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Lately, Trump has been boasting about Friedman’s praise for the White House’s Israel-United Arab Emirates peace plan.

Like Stella Dallas in the 1930s movie, standing in the rain outside the gates of the mansion where her daughter is getting married, Trump has always had his nose pressed up against the window of the elites.

“For a man who has risen to the highest office on the planet, president Trump radiates insecurity,” former ambassador Kim Darroch wrote to his colleagues in London, in a leaked cable. Steve Bannon once told me that Trump was much more concerned about CNN’s coverage than Fox’s. Trump was not seeking affirmation from the night-time slate of Fox knuckleheads; they were in the bag. Unserious though he may be, Trump covets praise from serious people. And serious Fox’s Sean Hannity is not.

Trump searches for legitimacy even as he undercuts any chance of being seen as legitimate

Fresh off his win in 2016, he was eager to come talk to The New York Times. I’ve never seen Trump happier than in that hour with the “failing” New York Times. (He even got to upbraid me in front of my boss.) As we wrapped up, he told the assembled editors, reporters and Times brass: “It’s a great honour. I will say, the Times is, it’s a great, great American jewel. A world jewel. And I hope we can all get along.”

That same eager tone was echoed in the audio of Bob Woodward’s tapes with Trump, as the president warmly spoke the name “Bob” again and again, yearning for acceptance from the very establishment that he had denounced to win the Oval Office. Even though Woodward keeps writing books about Trump with titles that sound like Hitchcock horror flicks – first Fear and now Rage – Trump somehow thought he could win over the pillar of the Washington establishment.