"If confirmed, I pledge to fulfill the president's vision of working in close partnership with the United Nations," Bolton said at the start of a tense, partisan day of debate over his temperament and record.
Democrats at Bolton's Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Monday recited his past undiplomatic remarks about the United Nations and wondered aloud why he would even want the job. They also challenged him over alleged bullying of government intelligence officials who disagreed with him on issues including Cuba's weapons capabilities.
"Tuesday's witness will focus on the key concern of Committee critics, that is, the two incidents in which Mr. Bolton asked to have intelligence analysts reassigned," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk, "and whether or not Mr. Bolton's actions were taken to circumvent the U.S. intelligence community in order to overstate the case regarding Cuban biological weapons."
Bolton did not disavow statements going back more than a decade, including a speech in which he said "there is no such thing as the United Nations," only a group of nations that the United States can sometimes sway to act in its own interest.
"The United States is committed to the success of the United Nations, and we view the U.N. as an important component of our diplomacy," Bolton said Monday.
That is a firmer statement of support for the world body than conservatives in and out of the Bush administration have sometimes offered, and some Democrats suggested Monday that Bolton hadn't really been converted.
Bolton retains a go-it-alone attitude about U.S. foreign policy that is out of step with Mr. Bush's second-term pledge of international cooperation, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat.
"My overall assessment is that you have nothing but disdain for the United Nations," she said.
"You can dance around it, you can run away from it, you can put perfume on it, but the bottom line is the bottom line," Boxer said. "It's hard for me to know why you'd want to work at an institution that you said didn't even exist."
The committee is expected to vote Thursday on whether to promote Bolton from his current job as the State Department's arms control chief to become the U.S. ambassador at the United Nations.
It's likely to happen, says CBS News Correspondent Gloria Borger.
"At this point, all the Democrats are against Mr. Bolton," Borger said. They are trying to recruit
They would like to get Rhode Island Republican Lincoln Chafee to go along with them, "but I would have to guess that it's going to be a squeaker and he will get confirmed."