HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Bill Clinton and Al Gore resumed their "On the Road to Change America" bus tour yesterday but leveled their most pointed comments at President Bush's policies abroad, in Bosnia and the Middle East.
In contrast with the end of the first Clinton-Gore bus tour from the Democratic National Convention in New York to St. Louis last month, which drew an uncommonly large crowd for this stage of the general-election campaign, this rip started with only a smattering of voter attention. But it began to build as it moved north toward an overnight stay in Bettendorf, Iowa. Along southern Illinois highways, only small clusters of folks gathered to wave and hold up signs until the motorcade reached a truck stop outside Bowling Green, Mo., where a good crowd -- alerted by last-minute radio and newspaper notices -- enthusiastically greeted the campaign team.
Then a big crowd turned out on a downtown street here in Hannibal, boyhood home of Mark Twain.
Mr. Clinton, preaching his message of change, quoted the famed author's remark that "petrified opinion and old ideas never did anything to break a chain or free a human soul." The cheering, applauding turnout gave the Clinton campaign hope that the magic of the first bus tour may not have yet worn off.
While reiterating their intentions to put domestic problems onto the nation's front burner, questions at a high school forum at the first stop in East St. Louis, Ill., gave them an opportunity to escalate criticism that Mr. Bush was too timid in aiding the besieged Balkan republic and inconsistent in dealing with Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Clinton called for "an immediate session of the United National Security Council" to deal with reports of mass murders by Serbian forces in Bosnia and called for the use of military force, if necessary.
"I would begin with air power, against the Serbs, to try to restore the basic conditions of humanity," he said.
Mr. Clinton said it was not possible to "predetermine the outcome of political events in those republics, but history has shown us that you can't allow the mass extermination of people and just sit by and watch it happen."
He added: "The United Nations is set up to stop things like that and we ought to stop it."
Mr. Gore, citing a bipartisan Senate effort "to try to convince the Bush administration to offer some leadership on this question," said the European nations have been "a little timid about doing something to stop this mass murder" and "have naturally looked to the United States" to lead.
Mr. Clinton, anticipating a question about political motives in Mr. Bush's recent deployment of military forces to Kuwait, said: "I do not want to say that now. I don't quarrel with the decision that was made. I think we've got to be firm with that guy [Mr. Hussein] . . . and I hope Americans will support that."
Mr. Gore added that the Bush administration, in effect, had invited Mr. Hussein "to violate the terms of the cease-fire and start flying missions to massacre the Kurdish people" and other internal dissidents.
Mr. Clinton scored what he called the administration's inconsistency in dealing with Iraq, observing that after driving Mr. Hussein from Kuwait and seeing he had no concern for the lives of his own people, "the minute the war is over, we clearly want him to remain in power again."
Mr. Hussein, said the Arkansas governor, "is like any other bully. If you send them mixed messages, they'll take advantage of you every time."
The foreign-policy questions highlighted a long question-and-answer session with students and local citizens in the gymnasium of East St. Louis Senior High School, whose football team has been rated best in the nation in several recent years.
Mr. Clinton borrowed the motto of the school's football coach, Bob Shannon -- "Get It Done" -- to urge his audience to join him and Mr. Gore in their promised efforts to pull the country out of its economic depression.
The candidates and their wives will spend three days on the road this trip, visiting towns in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin and Minnesota.