They were just a couple of country boys listening to country music at the White House last night.

And one of them said, "I'm thankful for one thing in this long, torturous election campaign. I'm thankful one man is not running against me." And as his dinner guests laughed appreciatively, President Carter added: "How would you like to be running against Anwar Sadat?"

The country boy" in Anwar Sadat, as described by Carter, was only one of the bonds the two presidents had in common at last night's official dinner for Sadat and his wife, Jihan. There were also their difficult crises of confidence at home and aroad.

A year ago, when the now-historic Israeli-Egyptian peace accords were signed at the White House, the world prestige of Jimmy Carter and Anwar Sadat was at a peak. Now stalemated Palestinian autonomy talks between Egypt and Israel have brought Sadat back to Washington with Carter putting his reputation as peacemaker on the line in an effort to find a solution.

"It would be inconceivable that we would let this promise slip from our grasp," said Carter. "We cannot afford to fail." At the moment, of course, Carter was addressing the unfinished business of the Camp David accords, which has brought President Sadat to Washington for three days of closed-door discussions. Next week, Prime Minister Menachem Begin, of Israel will meet with Carter for another deadline series of talks.

In his toast, President Carter gave a stern and pointed reminder of the "commitments" made at Camp David. "This document specifies the organization of a self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza derived through free elections held by the people who lived in those two troubled areas," said Carter. He continued, "The people of those two territories are granted autonomy and, as Prime Minister Begin said many times in the presence of President Sadat and me, not just autonomy, full autonomy -- full autonomy, he said many, many times."

In his firm discussion of the specifics of the past agreements, President Carter said, "It is important for us to remember that the security arrangements should be agreed upon; that there should be a recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people; that the palestinians have a right to participate in the determination of their own future."

Though he took up a small portion of the 15 minutes of tasts, President Sadat touched on the same theme of determination for what he called "a comprehensive settlement." He said. "We shall spare no effort in our concerted drive to effect a genuine change in the West Bank and and Gaza. A real transfer of authority must take place and a new era of reconciliation should begin . . . No one benefits from the continuation of occupation and the perpetuation of conflict."

Assistant Secretary of State Harold Saunders called yesterday's round of talks "very good -- we got a lot of work done." Asked about the possibility of extending the May 26 deadline for fulfillments of the agreement, Saunders said, "That's not really an issue with us right now. We are not talking about extending deadlines."

Saunders was only one of the high-ranking Carter foreign policy advisers who attended last night's official dinner for 140 people. Among the guests were Vice President Walter Mondale, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, National Security Affairs Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Counsel Lloyd Cutler, and Middle East negotiator Sol Linowitz."It's not fair to say we want a breakthrough, we want to close the gap," said Linowitz. "Lets not talk of failure. We hope if we haven't made progress, a full settlement, that the parties will keep on negotiating."

Even through the dinner was not a traditional state dinner, and many of the men opted for a business suit, the women guests brought out their formal, spring gowns. Rosalynn Carter wore a flowing cappucino Chiffon, shot through with silver and Jihan Sadat wore a black gown and a jacket trimmed with wide orange and beige mosaic border. When Noha and Jehan sadat, daughters of the Egyptian president, appeared, they almost drew wolf whistles from the photographers and the White House staff. And when the guests sat down to filet mignon Wellington and fried eggplant, the tables were a living spring design of green tablecloths and a calla lilies.

The effects of President Carter's severing of diplomatic relations with Iran was discussed testily by his close advisers. A survey earlier this week said that 59 percent of the American people believed the president was "too soft" compared to 41 percent in January."We didn't think in terms of popularity. We thought about about whether it was right or wrong," said Carter's election campaign chairman Robert Strauss. Also questioned on the benefits of the Iranian decisions, Jack Watson, special assistant to the president, said, "He has not been guided by those considerations."

One guest, Solon Gershman, a businessman from St. Louis, Mo., who is working with the reelection drive, commented, "A lot of people wanted to see more definitive action. And I think the sanctions and breaking of diplomatic ties was a good forward step."

When the Sadats arrived at the White House, both of them appeared relaxed, their eyes wrinkled up with laughter. Carter kissed Sadat on both sides of his face before they both posed for the photographers.

The immensely popular Statler Brothers had Carter, Sadat and their wives clapping good-old-boy style by the time they wound up their act in the East Room. In his introduction, Carter said the reason the Statlers had been chosen was because of Sadat's fondness for the "country of sadat's fondness for the "country aspects of U.S. life because he's a villager himself and a country boy."

"Just a couple of country boys someone kidded Egyptian Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal later.

"Very apropos," nodded Ghorbal, who told of Sadat's often dressing in simple robes to go into the Egypitan countryside to visit with villagers. "He's never lost touch with the people."

Asked about Sadat's popularity in Egypt, Ghorbal said it was strong "but it isn't easy because people in the Arab world are skeptical and I'm afraid the Israelis are providing them to be right."

Talking about Begin's visit here next week, Ghorbal said it would be up to the Israeli prime minister to come with a conciliatory tone.

"The issue is not concession. A third party is in the equation," said the ambassador.

Unlike previous visits when both presidents were accesible to -- and talked freely with -- reporters, last night's party was off-limits much of the time to the working press.

According to an East Wing spokeswoman,the West Wing (or President's side) of the White House had ordered that "the press be contained" until Carter and Sadat left.

Denying that he had anything to do with the order, White House press secretary Jody Powell nevertheless called it "a good idea -- the news is a little hot for tonight. It seems to me it's a social event. Sure it's history, but you can't hold a press conference at a social event.

"So," Powell continued wryly, "all you rally missed was the president."

To which one reporter observed, equally wryly: "Well, presidents come and go."

"That's right," said Powell.

The following is the guest list from President and Mrs. Carter's official dinner last night for President and Mrs. sadat. Noha el-Sadat Marei, daughter of the president Gamal el-Sadat, son of the president Abdel Khalek Abdel Ghaffar, son-in-law of the president Gen. Kamal Hasan Ali, minister of defense and war production, & Mrs. Ali Dr. Butros Butros Ghali, minister of state for foreign affairs

Dr. Ashraf A. Ghorbal, ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt, & Mrs. Ghorbal Ahmed Fauad Teymour, grand chamberlain of the presidency Maj. Gen. Hassan Allam, acting chief of the aides-de-camp Dr. Mohammed Attia, private physican to the president Kadria el-Sadek, private secretary to Mrs. Sadat Hemmat Moustapha, secretary of the president for information affairs Wagdy Mossed, member, the private secretariat Dr. Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid, permanent representative of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations, & Mrs. Meguid Maj. Gen. Abdel Halim Abu-Ghazala, defense and military attache, embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt Dr. Mohamed Shaker, minister, Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt, & Mrs. Shaker Vice President Walter Mondale & Mrs. Mondale Secretary of State Cyrus Vance & Mrs. Vance Secretary of Defense Harold Brown & Mrs. Brown Rubin Askew, special representative for trade negotiations Zbigniew Brzezinski, assistant to the president for national security affairs, & Mrs. Brzezinski Mrs. Hugh Gallen, wife of the governor of New Hampshire, & guest, Mary Louise Hancock Rep. Joseph G. Minish (D-N.J.), & Mrs. Minish Rep. Mary Rose Oakar (D-Ohio) Lloyd N. Cutler, counsel, to the president, & Mrs. Cutler

Judy Powell, press secretary to the president, & Mrs. Powell Jack H. Watson Jr., assistant to the President, & Mrs. Watson Sarah Weddlington, assistant to the president & guest, Maurice Sonnenberg Alfred L. Atherton Jr., American ambassador to Egypt, & Mrs. Atherton Albelardo Lopez Valdez, chief of protocol, & Mrs. Valdez Sol M. Linowitz, personal representative of the president for Middle East peace negotiations & Mrs. Linowitz Alfred Moses, senior adviser to the president, & Mrs. Moses

Harold H. Saunders, Assistant secretary of state, & guest, Catherine Saunders, daughter David Aaron, deputy assitant to the president for national security affairs, & guest, Richard Steadman Hermann F. Eilts, Boston, Mass., Mrs. Eilts Marvin Warner, Cincinnati, Ohio Milton A. Wolfe, Shaker Heights, Ohio, & Mrs. Wolfe Livingston L. Biddle Jr., chmn., National Endowment for the Arts, & Mrs. Biddle Sam Ayoub, pres., Coca-Cola Mid East, Atlanta, Ga., & Mrs. Ayoub Phil Balsley, Statler Brothers, Staunton, Va. & Mrs. Balsley Ismail Barrada, St. Paul, Minn., & Mrs Barrada Dr. Sherif Bassiouni, Chicago, Ill. William Batoff, Philadelphia, Pa., & Mrs. Batoff Helen Boehm, Trenton, N.H., & guest, Marshall Coyne Elizabeth Bogosian, pres., Harwol Properties, Warwick, R.I., & guest, James Woloohojian Jim Calaway, pres., Southwest Minerals, Houston, Tex., & guest, James Calaway , son Jack Coopersmith, Potomac, Md., & Mrs. Coopersmith John H. Davis, Levelland, Tex., & Mrs. Davis Laurence Deitch, Birmingham, Mich., & Mrs. Deitch Lou DeWitt, Statler Brothers, Staunton, Va., & Mrs. DeWitt C. Wyatt Dickerson, McLean, Va., & Mrs. Dickerson Dianne Feinstein, mayor of San Francisco, & Richard Blum Solon Gershman, St. Louis, Mo., & Mrs. Gershman Aaron Gleich, senior partner, Parsons, Brinckelhoff/Gleich, New York City Neil F. Hartigan, senior v.p., First National Bank of Chicago, & Mrs. Hartigan Dr. Salah Hosni, Arlington, Va., & Mrs. Hosni Thomas C. Hynes, Chicago, Ill., & Mrs. Hynes Dean Jeffers, chmn., Nationwide Insurance Companies, Columbus, Ohio, & Mrs. Jeffers Leonard Lauder, Estee Lauder Cosmetics, New York City, & Mrs. Lauder Frank R. Lautenberg, pres., Automatic Data Processing Corp., Montclair, N.J., Mrs. Lautenberg John H. Lyyons, pres., International Association of Bridge, Structural & Ornamental Iron Workers, DC, & Mrs. Lyons Charles T. Manatt, Mannatt, Phelps, Rothenberg & Tunney, Los Angeles Dr. Ibrahim Oweiss, Kensington, Md., & Mrs. Oweiss Don Reid, Statler Brothers, Staunton, Va., & Mrs. Reid Harold reid, Statler Brothers, Staunton, Va., & Mrs. Reid Dr. Hadi Salem, Beverly Hills, Calif., & Mrs. Salem Dr. Nazli Shoukri & Dr. John Osgood Field, dept. of political science, MIT, Cambridge, Mass. Dr. Robert T. Stapleton, Fayettevill, N.C., & Mrs. Stapleton Robert S. Strauss, chmn., Carter/Mondale Presidential Committee, Inc., & Mrs. Strauss Joe H. Stroud, editor, Detroit Free Press, & Mrs. Stroud The Rev. & Mrs. Leon Sullivan, chmn., Opportunities Industralization Centers, Inc., Philadelphia & Mrs. Sullivan Richard J. Trabulsi Jr., attorney, Houston, Tex., & Mrs. Trabulsi C. William Verity Jr., chmn., Armco Corp., Middletown, Ohio & Mrs. Verity