The personal foibles of politicians and the press have been making news in Washington ever since the city first rose from the swamps - as these bits and pieces drawn from the last hundred years amply demonstrate .

When party bosses summoned then-Senator Warren G. Harding to their smoke-filled room in Chicago's Blackstone Hotel at the last Republican convention, they asked him one question: "Is there in your life or background any element which might embarrass the Republican party if we nominate you for President?"

Harding stepped into an adjoining room, thought for ten minutes, and returned to answer "No."

But the former Ohio newspaper publisher has a secret life. Despite his hitherto uneventful presidency (though the Teapot Dome affair shows signs of heating up) and his lackluster demeanor (he did normalcy"), Warren Harding is a Romeo. Washington insiders say a Secret Service man whom Harding has taken into his confidence routinely slips a young woman named Nan Britton into the White House for visits - unbeknownst to Mrs. Harding. And there's more: when Harding was elected, all the storefronts in his hometown of Marion were decorated with bunting. Except one belonging to James Phillips, a shopkeeper who had no reason to rejoice at Harding's success; Phillip's wife, Carrie, conducted a torrid love affair with Harding.

"Carrie Darling, Sweetheart Adorable," Harding wrote Mrs. Phillips in a letter provided by sources who prefer to remain anonymous. "There! You see my mood in the opening words. I penned them because they express my exact feelings . . . I wanted to kiss you out of your reserve - a thousand of them, wistful, wild, wet and wandering, and I wanted you to kiss as only you can. God! I find my heart hurrying at the thought. And I wanted to feast my eyes, to intoxicate them in glorious breasts and matchless curves and exquisite shapeliness . . . How I would revel in your matchless charms. I'd pet. And coddle and kiss and fondle and admire and adore, utterly impatient until I made you the sweetest and purest and darlingest wanton."

Not bad for a President who boasts to associates that he likes to travel in America making long-winded speeches filled with political cliches. The White House has no comment on the Prisident's private life, though a close associate confides Mrs. Harding is nicknamed "The Duchess." He also notes that presidential philandering was hardly begun by Hardingand "probably won't end with him, either."