"I wasn't asked" to address the National Press Club "for my forensic ability," James H. Rowe Jr., administrative assistant to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, explained yesterday. "I was asked because I'm a survivor of the Roosevelt administration. There are damn few of us left, and most of us are seated at this head table."

Calling himself an "unreconstructed New Dealer" and calling Roosevelt "a political pragmatist who was experimenting," Rowe told the audience of about 300, "You can guess my feelings on Ronald Reagan."

Roosevelt got angry about leaks to the press, according to Rowe, who said he does not remember ever leaking information to journalists while in the White House. But, Rowe admitted, Roosevelt once admonished him by saying, "Didn't I read in some column in The Star that you were at a cocktail party yesterday?"

Rowe replied that he attended, and Roosevelt countered, "If I read this too often, you will need another job."

Although bread lines and soup lines underscored the desperation of the Depression years, Rowe said, "there was never before and certainly has not been since, the excitement, the intellectuality, the excellence or the sense of accomplishment that existed in the New Deal."