While many people — understandably — assume that Geithner worked at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. before he became Treasury secretary in 2009, actually he was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 2003 to 2009, the critical years leading up to and including the financial crisis. He has never worked on Wall Street. By design, the New York Fed has traditionally been the most powerful of the Federal Reserve banks, because of its proximity to the powerful Wall Street banks that it regulates. And Geithner played a major role, along with Bernanke and then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, in the bailouts of Bear Stearns Cos., Merrill Lynch, American International Group Inc. (AIG) and in the decision to allow Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. to go bankrupt…

The prospect of Geithner and Summers — two disciples of Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary and an architect of the Citigroup Inc. (C) debacle — going head-to-head to replace Bernanke would be the firefight of the century, and could open the door wide enough for Yellen, the dark-horse candidate, to slip through and become the first woman to be Fed chairman. Obama is comfortable with making history, and appointing Yellen would be yet another way to do it. But for now, it’s Geithner who has the president’s ear.