"It's terribly sad," Charles Z. Wick, the U.S. Information Agency director, said last night when he heard that the House Ethics Committee had recommended an official reprimand of Reps. Daniel B. Crane (R-Ill.) and Gerry E. Studds (D-Mass.) for sexual misconduct.

"It's too bad that these men who have served their country well had their capacity to continue to perform impaired by this sort of human happening of a private nature, which falls something short of illegality."

Wick went on to say that he couldn't think of anyone who didn't have "some sort of a peccadillo in their past."

Which brought up the purported Vicki Morgan sex tapes. Wick said he doubts that the tapes exist, and said he was judging by the standard of ethics shown by the lawyer who allegedly had the tapes.

"My wife will hate me for saying all this," he said, grinning.

The USIA chief talked during drinks on the great veranda of the British Embassy residence overlooking the rose garden, just before a stag dinner for 27 top officials honoring Sir Geoffrey Howe, Britain's new foreign secretary.

The first guest to arrive was a small black squirrel, a close friend of Lady Marjory Wright, wife of Sir Oliver Wright, the British ambassador. The butler, well prepared, served the squirrel a peanut with great grandeur.

Howe and Secretary of State George P. Shultz, in separate conversations, noted they had much in common. "We both started out as labor attorneys," said Howe. "I was chancellor of the Exchequer and he was Treasury secretary. Now he's secretary of state and I am foreign minister."

Shultz, on another section of the veranda, went through the same history, concluding, "So we had a pattern of similarity." And when asked if they agreed on other points, he said, "Practically everything."

At last night's dinner, Vice President Bush sat on Howe's right, with Shultz on his left.

Other guests included CIA Director William J. Casey, Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige, House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Clement Zablocki (D-Wis.), Undersecretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Burt.

Howe, 56, arrived Wednesday and called on the president, the vice president and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Yesterday, he had breakfast with Treasury Secretary Donald Regan, talks with Shultz in the morning and appeared before Hill committees in the afternoon. Today, after an appearance on a morning news show, he will fly back to London.