Helmut Schmidt, chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, dived right in. "We are living in an uneasy period," he told guests at a White House dinner in his honor last night. Then he proceeded to list some of the seasons: inflation, foreign policy crisis, energy probelms, common defense issues.

In a ramblin, sometimes sentimental toast, Schmidt tried to erase the impression that West Germany and the United States have been at odds recently.

"To tell you the truth, ladies and gentlemen," he told the 140 black-tie guests, "I don't feel the irritations."

Schmidt's loquaciousness was in marked contrast to what other figures were saying on the wide range of world problems. Or what they weren't saying. w

"No words," said Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, dispensing only those two as he skirted reporters when he arrived at the dinner.

"I'd better not say anything at all," said George Vest, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, as he sprinted past the phalanx of waiting press.

"We don't talk about that much," said Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker when asked about the soarin rate of inflation.

Then there were the officials who were speaking, but not actually saying anything. They included national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who characterized discussions between Carter, Schmidt, Vance and Secretary of Defense Harold Brown as "splendid. We had a comprehensive review of the world situation."

Brown himself fell into the same category when he was asked about the effects of the United States' disavowal of its U.N. vote criticizing Israel. "That didn't affect today's cause," said Brown.

President Carter's campaign chairman, Robert Strauss, repeated some words he had been using throughout the day on the Israeli controversy and what effect it might have on the president's campaign.

"Both the president and Secretary Vance have spoken on it," Strauss said, edging away from reporters. "Both have credibility with the American public."

After dinner, over coffee in the Blue Room, President Carter stood with Strauss and Brown, almost head to head and laughing. Then Vance approached Carter and beckoned him out of the room. Both men went into the usher's office, where Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan was waiting.

After a 15-minute absence Carter returned to the receiving line, appearing preoccupied. Jordan told a reporter, "I really can't talk about it. I'm sorry." After the Carters escorted Chancellor and Mrs. Schmidt to the North Portico, Carter said, "It was kind of a routine call."

Vance never did reappear. His wife, in fact, went searching for him after the party started to break up.

"He had to got upstairs and do something, I don't know what," she told a reporter. "Nobody tells me anything."

The guest list reflected some of the Carter administration's concern over domestic problems, drawing from labor and big business as well as government.

Sol C. Chaikin, president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, said he was still very much in President Carter's campaign corner. As for the inflation rate and its effect of ILGWU members, "That's troublesome -- but I haven't heard any American who's got the answer."

When AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland was asked about inflation, he sidled past, calling over his shoulder, "I'm against it."

Big business was represented by the presidents or chairmen of the Ford Motor Co., IBM, DuPont and CocaCola. Ford's Phillip Caldwell said he was in complete agreement with the administration's admonition telegraphed earlier his week to his and 499 other firms to hold down prices.

"We haven't raised any prices -- we're on good graces on that. We agree with the approach the administration is taking and we're supportive of what the administration appears to be doing in trying to balance the budget."

There was a ditto from IBM's Frank T. Cary.

"We're going to respect their guidelines," Cary said.

Of course, some people preferred politics to pocketbook issues in the wake of the Massachusetts and Vermont primaries.

Rep. Jonathan Bingham of New York said flatly that he hasn't yet endorsed a Democratic candidate for president. With what he called ties to both Carter and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass), "I'm certainly not going to endorse anyone before the New York primary," he said.

Sen. Adlai Stevenson (D-Ill.) said President Carter "is very much ahead -- two-to-one as of today -- in Illinois.That's an understatement."

Rosalynn Carter listened closely to Strauss' report of Vice President Mondale's campaigning in Illinois. "Bob told me that the vice president just had one of the greatest campaign days he's ever had in Illinois. And that's where I'm going tomorrow," said Mrs. Carter.Asked about Rep. John Anderson's recent upswing in the primaries, she said: "I thought it was interesting, but I think it only means that the Republican nominee is not yet decided."

Ranking right up there with the rest of the day's thorny topics was the question of European support of the Olympic boycott. It occupied a prominent spot on the agenda before Carter and his visitor. And Lloyd Cutler, the White House superlawyer who's been point man garnering boycott support in some quarters, said progress was made.

Indications, in fact, were that Schmidt had moved a step closer to lending official West German support to a boycott. In a joint U.S.-German press statement released at the start of last night's dinner, he and Carter "agreed that participating in the Olympic Games would be inappropriate as long as Soviet occupation in Afghanistan continues."

Even so, Chancellor Schmidt left open the possibility that West Germany would participate in the Games if the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan.

In his toast, Carter said: "Alliances, to be strong, must be voluntary -- not based on coercion." Hans Matthoefer, minister of finance of the Federal Republic of Germany; & Mrs. Matthoefer Peter Hermes, ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany; & Mrs. Hermes Dr. Manfred Schueler, state secretary, Federal Chancellery Klaus Boelling, state secretary and chief of the Press and Information Office Guenther van Well, state secretary, Federal Foreign Office Manfred Lahnstein, state secretary, Ministry of Finance Heinz-Oskar Vetter, chairman, German Trade Union Federation Otto Wolff von Amerongen, chairman, Federation of German Chambers of Commerce & Industry Prof. Dr. Rolf Rodenstock, chairman, German Federation of Industry Heinz Kluncker, chairman, Civil Servants and Transportation Workers Union Philip Rosenthal, member of Parliament and chairman of Rosenthal China Gen. Juergen Brandt, chief of the Federal Armed Forces Staff Berndt von Staden, assistant secretary for political affairs, Federal Chancellery Dr. Horst Schulmann, assistant secretary for economic and financial affairs, Federal Chancellery Franz-Joachim Schoeller, chief of protocol, Federal Foreign Office Werner Bruns, director of the chancellor's office, Federal Chancellery Per Fischer, assistant secretary, Federal Foreign Office Klaus Gennrich, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Dieter Schroeder, Suddeutsche Zietung Friedhelm Kemma, Die Welt Secretary of State Cyrus Vance & Mrs. Vance Secretary of Defense Harold Brown & Mrs. Brown Zbigniew Brzezinski, assistant to the president for national security affairs Sen. Edmund S. Muskie (D-Me.) Sen. & Mrs. Henry L. Bellmon (R-Okla.) Sen. & Mrs. Adlai E. Stevenson (D-Ill.) Rep. & Mrs. Jamie L. Whitten (D-Miss.) Rep. & Mrs. Jonathan B. Bingham (D-N.Y.) Rep. & Mrs. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) Rep. & Mrs. Bill Nichols (D-Ala.) Rep. & Mrs. Glenn English (D-Okla.) Rep. & Mrs. Marc Lincoln Marks (R-Pa.) Hedley Donovan, senior adviser to the president; & guest Sandra McElwaine Lloyd N. Cutler, counsel to the president; & Mrs. Cutler Paul A. Volcker, chairman, board of governors of the Federal Reserve System; & Mrs. Volcker Walter Stoessel Jr., American ambassador to Germany; & Mrs. Stoessel Chief of Protocol Abelardo Valdez & Mrs. Valdez Mrs. Vest Robert Blackwill, National Security Council; & Mrs. Blackwill Thomas L. Farmer, chairman, Intelligence Oversight Board; & guest Abigail McCarthy Madeline MacBean, personal assistant to the first lady; guest Jonathan Kempner Rear Adm. & Mrs. Tazewell T. Shepard Jr., Washington, DC Mr. & Mrs. Hank Aaron, Atlanta, Ga. Dwayne Andreas, chairman, Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., Decatur, Ill.; & Mrs. Andreas Mr. & Mrs. Henry Benach, New York, N.Y. Philip Caldwell, president, Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Mich.; & Mrs. Caldwell Clifford Cameron, chairman, First Union Corp., Charlote, N.C. & Mrs. Cameron Frank T. Cary, chairman, IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y.; & Mrs. Cary Mr. & Mrs. Robert P. Casey, Scranton, Pa. Sol C. Chaikin, president, International Ladies Garment Workers Union, New York, N.Y.; & Mrs. Chaikin Mr. & Mrs. Art D'Lugoff, New York, N.Y. Shirley Feld, Washington, D.C. Dr. Kurt Fox, Fairfield, Va.; & guest Susanne Fox John W. Gardner, chairman of the organizing committee, Coalition of National Voluntary Organizations, Washington, D.C.; & Mrs. Gardner John Gray, president, National Asphalt Pavement Assn., Riverdale, Md.; & Mrs. Gray Mr. & Mrs. Maurice R. Greenberg, New York, N.Y. Loyd Hackler, president, American Retail Federation, Washington, D.C.; & Mrs. Hackler Lane Kirkland, president, Afl-cio, Washington, D.C. & Mrs. Kirkland Mr. & Mrs. Zel E. Lipsen, McLean, Va. Mr. & Mrs. Hubert J. Loftus, Addison, Ill. Clare Crawford-Mason, People magazine & NBC News; & Robert W. Mason Peyton McKnight, Texas state senator; & Mrs. McKnight Charles E. F. Millard, president, Coco-Cola Bottling Co. of New York Inc., Hackensack, N.J.; & Mrs. Millard Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Mishkin, Los Angeles, Calif. Allen Neuharth, chairman, Gannett Co. Inc., Rochester, N.Y.; & Lorl Wilson, Florida state senator Mrs. & Mrs. Gordon H. Ochenrider, Arlington, Va. Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Pritchard, La Grange, Ill. Mr. & Mrs. Karl Ratzsch, Milwaukee, Wis. Bernard H. Ridder Jr., vice president, St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch, St. Paul, Minn.; & Mrs. Ridder William M. Roth, chairman, German Marshall Fund of the United States; & Mrs. Roth Daniel Schorr, chief Washington correspondent, Cable News Network; & Mrs. Schorr Irving S. Shapiro, chairman, E. I. duPont de Nemours & Co. Inc., Wilmington, Del. Mr. & Mrs. Norton Simon, Malibu, Calif. Robert S. Strauss, chairman, Carter/Mondale Presidential Committee Inc.; & Mrs. Strauss Theodore Strauss, chairman, First City Bank of Dallas; & Mrs. Strauss Floyd Warmann, Clayton, Mo.; & guest Helen Warmann George Wein, president, Festival Productions Inc., New York, N.Y.; & Mrs. Wein Jerry Wurf, president, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees; & Mrs. Wurf