It  was somewhat jarring this week to see the President of the United States take to his podium to figuratively hold up the head of Osama bin Laden as a political trophy. But that's what Barack Obama felt compelled to do after Republican contenders Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney  accused the commander-in-chief of "appeasement" of America's enemies.

“Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al-Qaeda leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement,” said Obama at a press conference that seemed to have been called to give him the chance to respond to the quip. “Or whoever’s left out there. Ask them about that.”

It seemed bizarre and perhaps somewhat unpresidential to not only validate the criticism by repeating it but to speak almost cavalierly of these killings, as necessary as they were, as having people "taken off the field." The Israelis, who have to resort to these tactics fairly often, never gloat, most often refusing to confirm or deny their involvement but occasionally saying in careful language that the hit should be a warning to others considering attacks against Israeli civilians.

Though Obama's  rejoinder made a good sound-bite, it ignored a focus of the criticism: Iran and Syria.

Santorum, for his part, stuck to his guns, notwithstanding the president's powerful rejoinder, saying in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that the killings are "a continuation of Bush policies with respect to al Qaeda and Afghanistan … he has done nothing but appease with respect to Iran. He has done nothing to stop their nuclear program … There is a consistent pattern of contingencies that have come up under this administration where he has opposed the freedom fighters and has gone with the radical Islamists."

Santorum went on to chastise Obama for refusing to back the opposition in Iran or take a tough stand against Bashar Assad in Syria rather than continue diplomatic relations with Damascus.

Asked by CNN's Candy Crowley what he would do differently as president, Santorum said he would fund the pro-Democracy movement in Iran, use all assets to stop Iran's missile capability and demand that the country allow inspections of its nuclear program "or work with the Israelis to end it."