Frank Bruni: Trump just wants to be 'loved'

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Though President-elect Donald Trump's policy positions have been difficult to pin down throughout the campaign and even now, one thing has become abundantly clear: Trump just wants to be loved.

SEE ALSO: Clinton urged to seek recount amid hacking rumors

That's according to a sharp column from Frank Bruni, an opinion writer at the New York Times who sat down with Trump and other members of The Times for a wide-ranging interview on Tuesday afternoon.

"I'm going to get you to write some good stuff about me," Trump told Bruni as the two men shook hands.

Trump opened the conversation with The Times by discussing his "tremendous respect" for the paper, after dubbing it the "failing" New York Times on Twitter just hours before the meeting.

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Donald Trump pauses in his apartment 5/20 after receiving the news that the Board of Estimate unanimously approved a 40-year tax abatement plan. Under the plan Trump will purchase and refurbish the Commodore Hotel, which closed into doors 5/18, from the Penn Central Transportation Corp. In return for his $10-million-dollar purchase and up to $100 million face-lifting investment, Trump will have no real estate taxes for 40 years.

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Real estate developer Donald Trump announces intentions to build a $100 million dollar Regency Hotel.

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Donald Trump with Alfred Eisenpreis, New York City Economic Development Administrator. Sketch of new 1,400 room Renovation project of Commodore Hotel.

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Donald Trump and Ivana Trump attend Roy Cohn's birthday party in February 1980 in New York City.

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Boxing promoter Don King holds up the arms of Mike Tyson and former champion Larry Holmes during a press conference here 12/1. Looking on is Donald Trump. The fight will be held at the Trump Plaza Hotel.

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Donald Trump, real estate mogul, entrepreneur, and billionare poses in the foyer of his home in August 1987 in Greenwich, Connecticut.

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Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump during 1988 U.S. Open - September 3, 1988 at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, New York, United States.

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Ivana Trump and Donald Trump during Mike Tyson vs Michael Spinks Fight at Trump Plaza - June 27, 1988 at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States.

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Billionaire Donald Trump and his wife Ivana arrive 04 December 1989 at a social engagement in New York.

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Donald Trump and Daughter Ivanka Trump during Maybelline Presents 1991 Look of the Year at Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York, United States.

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Donald Trump attends 'Hoop-La' Special Olympics Basketball Game on June 25, 1992 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

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Donald Trump and Joan Rivers during Opening of The Rose Room in the Plaza Hotel at Plaza Hotel Rose Room in New York City, New York, United States.

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Donald Trump touches 07 April 1993 Marla Maples stomach to confirm published reports that the actress is pregnant with his child. The two arrived for Maples appearance in the Broadway musical 'The Will Rogers Follies'.

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US business tycoon Donald Trump enters the PLaza Hotel in New York past supporters 21 December 1994. Hundreds of supporters showed up at a news conference where Trump denied a New York newspaper report that the Sultan of Brunei had bid 300 million USD to buy the Manhattan hotel.

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Donald Trump and Christine Whitman during Opening of New Warner Bros. Store in Trump Plaza Casino at Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States.

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Donald Trump attends Marc Jacobs Fashion Show on April 4, 1995 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

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Boxing: IBC Heavyweight Title: View of celebrity businessman Donald Trump and actor Steven Seagal seated ringside during Lennox Lewis vs Tommy Morrison fight at Boardwalk Convention Hall. Atlantic City, NJ. (Photo by John Iacono /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) 

New York real estate giant Donald Trump poses in his Trump Tower office on a giant letter 'T' on May 8, 1996.

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Portrait of Marla Maples and her husband, businessman Donald Trump, with their daughter Tiffany, as they pose together at the Mar-a-Lago estate, Palm Beach, Florida, 1996.

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Donald Trump and Ron Delsner backstage at a KISS concert at Madison Squre Garden in New York City on July 25, 1996.

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Donald Trump open his new building at 1 Center Park West- The new Trump International Hotel and Tower.

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Donald Trump and his girlfriend Celina Midelfar watch Conchita Martinez and Amanda Coetzer 07 September at US Open in Flushing Meadows, NY.

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Celine Dion, husband Rene, Donald Trump & Ivanka Trump

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Entrepreneur Donald Trump and Rev. Al Sharpton speak at a ribbon cutting ceremony for Sharpton's National Action Network Convention April 5, 2002 in New York City. The group aims to further the development of civil rights.

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Donald Trump and his girlfriend Melania Knauss attend the Marc Bouwer/Peta Fall/Winter 2002 Collection show February 14, 2002 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City.

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Donald Trump at Madison Square Garden

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Donald Trump stands on the sidelines before the start of the AFC divisional playoffs between the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans on January 10, 2004 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Temperatures have reached as low as 7 degrees in the Foxboro area.

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Donald Trump, Visionary Business Leader award honoree, poses with his children Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka at Fashion Group International's 22nd Annual 'Night Of Stars' at Cipriani's 42nd Street October 27, 2005 in New York City.

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Eric Trump and Donald Trump attend the Chicago Bulls vs New Jersey Nets game at the IZOD Center on October 31, 2007 in East Rutherford, New York.

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 Donald Trump delivers a speech with his son Barron after he was honored with the 2,327th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, CA, 16 January 2007.

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Donald Trump sands with Miss Universe 2009 Stefania Fernandez of Venezuela prior to the Miss Universe 2010 Pageant Final at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas on August 23, 2010. Miss Universe is an annual international beauty pageant and along with the Miss World is the most publicized beauty contest in the world. California clothing company Pacific Mills founded the contest 1952 and was acquired by Donald Trump in 1996.

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US tycoon Donald Trump arrives to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, on February 27, 2015.

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Real estate mogul and billionaire Donald Trump attends Golf legend Jack Nicklaus' Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda March 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Trump announed on March 18 that he has launched a presidential exploratory committee.

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Bruni wasn't fooled by the compliment.

"He's saying what this audience wants to hear," Bruni told MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle on Wednesday morning. "One of the constants in Trump's political life is his zeal for admiration."

Later in the Times conversation, Trump made a statement that might lead one to infer that Trump's overarching desire is to be loved by everyone, both liberal and conservative:

"It would be, to me, a great achievement if I could come back here in a year or two years and say — and have a lot of the folks here say, 'You've done a great job.' And I don't mean just a conservative job, 'cause I'm not talking conservative. I mean just, we've done a good job."

Trump walked back many of the most extreme claims he made on the campaign trail in the interview, including jailing his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and told reporters that he has an "open mind," on climate change.

He also emphatically praised President Obama (who he originally questioned as being born outside of the US), expressed skepticism about waterboarding suspected terrorists, and said that he'd "love" to be the one to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

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Portrait of American businessman Donald Trump and Melania Knauss (born Melanija Knavs) Trump as they pose together before a Marc Jacobs fashion show, New York, New York, 1998. (Photo by Rose Hartman/Getty Images)
Portrait of American businessman Donald Trump and Melania Knauss (born Melanija Knavs) as they attend the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, New York, New York, 1998. (Photo by Rose Hartman/Getty Images)
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Portrait of (future married couple) American businessman Donald Trump and model Melania Knauss as they pose together at the Mar-a-Lago estate, Palm Beach, Florida, 1999. (Photo by Davidoff Studios/Getty Images)
Nyc 4/13/99 'Vh-1 Divas Live '99' Arrivals At The Beacon Theatre. Donald Trump & Date Melania Knauss (Photo By Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
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9th September 1999: American real estate mogul Donald Trump with his date, Melania Knauss, at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, New York City. (Photo by Karl Feile/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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399264 03: (ITALY OUT) Millionaire Donald Trump (R) and his girlfriend Melania Knauss walk along 59th Street after leaving Barneys January 5, 2001 in New York City. (Photo by Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images)
401116 11: Donald Trump and his girlfriend Melania Knauss attend the Marc Bouwer/Peta Fall/Winter 2002 Collection show February 14, 2002 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City. (Photo by George De Sota/Getty Images)
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ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 09: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's wife Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump, son Eric Trump and son Donald Trump, Jr. arrive before the town hall debate at Washington University on October 9, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. This is the second of three presidential debates scheduled prior to the November 8th election. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Ivanka Trump (R) and Melania Trump (L) appear before the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri on October 9, 2016. / AFP / POOL / RICK WILKING (Photo credit should read RICK WILKING/AFP/Getty Images)
ABC NEWS - Melania Trump is pictured at the opening of the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, 10/26/16. (Photo by Fred Watkins/ABC via Getty Images) MELANIA TRUMP
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Republican president-elect Donald Trump walks on stage with his wife Melania Trump during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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"You find him talking a much different game with The New York Times than you did on the stump," Bruni told Ruhle. "This was a much more moderate, reasonable Donald Trump."

Here's Bruni describing Trump's change in tone:

"For Trump, bragging is like breathing: continuous, spontaneous. He wants nothing more than for his audience to be impressed. And when his audience is a group of people, like us, who haven't clapped the way he'd like?

He sands down his edges. Modulates his voice. Bends."

In the Times interview, Trump also discussed how "it's very important," that his presidency "brings the country together." His motivation for doing so is revealing: because he got booed in public after he "started thinking about politics."

"I've never had a person boo me, and all of a sudden people are booing me... So it's something that I had never experienced before."

Trump is a master at playing to his audience, but that's a cause for deeper concern, according to Bruni.

"There was a lesson here about his desire to be approved of and his hunger to be loved," Bruni wrote. "There was another about the shockingly unformed, pliable nature of the clay that is our 70-year-old president-elect... the most influential voice in Trumplandia is the last one he happened to listen to."


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