For Trump, what mattered most in child separation was looking strong

That bluster — the shock and awe of a president who claims he might not care — has been a calling card throughout Trump’s political rise, a clear rebuke of George W. Bush’s self-styled “compassionate conservatism” and Bill Clinton’s desire to feel the nation’s pain. The “heart” might have won this battle, Trump told the nation, but no one should mistake the skirmish for the whole war.

The projection of strength, after all, has always been the central pillar of Trump’s politics, the reason behind his constant attraction to conflict and a main draw for voters desperate for change and a powerful ally. And immigration has always been his favorite arena for flexing his rhetorical muscles…

The tough-guy posture of a ­citizen politician who had ­encouraged fisticuffs at campaign rallies, praised murderous foreign regimes and described immigrants as snakes who might “infest” the nation was, ultimately, more important than any single policy, even one that his aides hoped would give him leverage in congressional negotiations and deter future border crossings.