2006 was the year Vice President Dick Cheney broke from his traditionally parsimonious relationship with the news media, and rewarded journalists and commentators with an extremely provocative news item involving the near-point-blank shooting of 78-year-old friend and campaign contributor Harry Whittington on a Texas ranch.
When the vice president addressed the media two days after the incident, many of those in the press corps were moved to tears.
"Christmas has come early this year," Cheney quipped to the appreciative crowd of reporters in the White House press briefing room. "But in all seriousness, you truly deserve this gift, which I happily bestow on you in great thanks and humble appreciation for all you've done these past five years. May you make the most of it."
"Considering all the trouble you go through to cover the White House, spraying my elderly hunting companion in the face with birdshot was the least I could do," he said.
"I love you all," he added.
Cheney said the "token of [his] affection" was intended not only for reporters, but for anyone in any media-related position. "Late-night talk-show hosts, pundits, parody songwriters, and even bloggers—from the bottom of my heart, I want you all to have this."
Cheney urged the recipients to exploit the way he seemingly acted out of sheer malice and callous indifference in his handling of the incident, inviting them to make jokes inspired by, but not limited to, his authoritarian persona, his pro-gun position, and the bumbling cartoon hunter Elmer Fudd.
"I can't remember the last time a high-level administration official has taken the time to do something so wonderful just for us," NBC Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory said shortly after Cheney's announcement. "Mr. Vice President, we salute you."
The incident quickly garnered worldwide attention and deep media gratitude.
"I could have kissed him," The Washington Post's Richard Cohen said. "And when it came out that his favorite hobby is slaughtering dozens of defenseless pheasants who have no chance to escape from the confines of the hunting ranch, that was the icing on the cake."
Cohen added, "I doubt we'll ever see a vice president as kindhearted and generous as this one."