Jack Valenti, an ex-special assistant to President Johnson, has signed up a handful of friends and former White House colleagues to give advanced students at American University an insider's view of the presidency.

Valenti's list of guest lecturers for his 14-week course on the "American Presidency in Transition" reads like a Who's Who in the Democratic establishment, more particularly the Johnson administration, both retired and reborn.

Former Arkansas Sen. J.W. Fulbright will lecture on how the President sells his foreign policy to Congress, among other things. Joseph Califano Jr., Secretary-designate of Health, Education and Welfare and former adviser to Johnson, will discuss domestic affairs.

Clark Clifford, Defense Secretary under Johnson and a White House adviser to President Truman, will talk about "the crucial interchange between the Chief Executive and the military." Charles Schultze, chairman-designate of President-elect Jimmy Carter's Council of Economic Advisers and director of the Office of Management and Budget under Johnson, will lecture on the President and the economy.

The purpose of the course, said Valenti, now president of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., is to give students insights into the real presidency, which he says academics have never really captured.

"Aside from Arthur Schlesinger, Valenti said, "I don't know of a single historian who knows where the heartbeat (of the presidency) is, where the arteries go.

"It's impossible to write about being a housewife unless you've been washing the dishes and taking care of the kids."

Valenti does not write off professors entirely. Three of the six books from which is assigning readings are by academics. They are Richard Neustadt's "Presidential Power," Louis W. Koenig's "The Chief Executive" and "Perspectives on the Presidency" by Aaron Wildavsky.

The other three books are "A Very Human Presidency" by Jack Valenti, "A Presidential Nation" by Joseph Califano Jr. and "A Political Education" by Harry McPherson, one time special counsel to Johnson and also one of Valenti's guest lecturers.

Besides McPherson, who will discuss how presidents prepare for crises, guest lecturers include Abe Fortas, a former Supreme Court Justice and adviser to Johnson, who will talk about how a president receives counseling.

Charles Bartlett, a Chicago Sun-Times columnist and intimate of President Kennedy, will lecture about the presidency and the press, and Charles Maguire, a Johnson speech writer, will talk about "how the President develops through others the manner of prose and substance he chooses to voice to the people."