On Oct. 29, 1975, Mike O’Neill, the editor of The Daily News, and Bill Brink, the managing editor, returned from lunch and asked whether President Gerald R. Ford, while addressing the National Press Club in Washington, had agreed to help New York City avoid bankruptcy.

The editors were read the definitive sentence from Ford’s address: “I am prepared to veto any bill that has as its purpose a federal bailout of New York City to prevent a default.”

As I recall — I was a reporter and editor at The Daily News at the time — Brink initially summed up the president’s rejection with what was sometimes quaintly described back then as a two-word barnyard epithet. Then they refined the hulking front page tabloid headline, a cri de coeur that encapsulated Washington’s response to the city’s plight and that would help cost Ford the presidential election the following year, ultimately becoming a metaphor for New York’s resilience: “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”

Those days of…